The letters of James K. Polk provide insight into the politics, diplomacy, science, and culture of the early nineteenth century. They also offer a glimpse into the proceedings of one of the most significant yet least-known US presidents, during whose term the country increased in geographical size by one-third.
The public can now access thirty years of Polk’s writings due to the online publication of all twelve volumes of the Correspondence of James K. Polk series by Newfound Press, the digital imprint of the University of Tennessee Libraries.
The online volumes report on July 1817 to July 1847, detailing Polk’s years as a University of North Carolina student; a lawyer and plantation owner; a member of the Tennessee Legislature; a member of, and speaker of, the US House of Representatives; Tennessee’s governor; and the US president.
The series is currently edited by Michael David Cohen, research assistant professor of history at UT. The volumes available online also were edited by Tom Chaffin and Wayne Cutler, both formerly of the UT Department of History, and the late Herbert Weaver, of Vanderbilt University. The hardcover volumes are published by UT Press.
The Correspondence of James K. Polk project devotes itself to publishing the eleventh president’s letters, which are gathered from the Library of Congress and other repositories. Polk served as president from 1845 to 1849. The project is supported by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Tennessee Historical Commission.
The volumes are accessible free of charge as searchable, downloadable PDF editions. They are available online.