Skip to main content

Ford: The Men And The Machine

March 2023
1min read

by Robert Lacey; Little, Brown; 778 pages; $24.95.

Robert Lacey’s previous biographies include studies of Henry VIII, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Robert, Earl of Essex. It might seem strange, then, that the author chose to transplant himself to the heart of industrial America for his latest opus, but in fact his subject has as much grandeur, drama, and tragic reverberation as any saga of the house of Tudor.

Ford is clearly the work of an Englishman—people write cheques and ship freight in railcars—but it is just as clearly the work of someone in absolute command of this most American subject. Lacey’s authoritative text follows the fortunes of the nation’s best-known industrial family from Henry Ford’s first glimpse of an internal-combustion engine (it was being used in a soda-bottling plant) through his remaking the modern world with his Model T. With that triumph came the growing megalomania that led to the destruction of his son and industrial heir, Edsel, and finally to his grandson Henry II’s epic struggle to wrest the tortured company from the thugs to whom the founder had bequeathed it. The book ends with another fierce personal conflict, the much-publicized bout between Henry II and Lee Iacocca, and the entire narrative is an absorbing, perceptive study of how people and companies behave.

For all his intimate knowledge of Ford family goings-on, Lacey never loses track of the machinery. The Model T, the Model A, the V-8 engine, the Mustang—all are explained and put in their technological context with ease and fluency. There is plenty of gossip here, but it is informed by the author’s sure grasp of just how the Fords remade our society.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "December 1986"

Authored by: John A. Garraty

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

When Elsie Parrish was fired, her fight for justice led to dramatic changes in the nation’s highest court.

Authored by: Bethany Ewald Bultman

New Orleans cuisine—with its French roux, African okra, Indian filé, and Spanish peppers—is literally a gastronomic melting pot. Here’s how it all came together.

Authored by: Henry I. Kurtz

Fifty years ago these rough-and-ready tin soldiers were sold from bins cheap and by the handful. Today collectors are seeking them for their bright, simple vitality.

Authored by: Peter Baida

It began early. It’s not going away. It’s about a lot more than payoffs and ward politics.
And it’s about a lot more than New York.

Authored by: Ronald H. Spector

Historians have failed to help Americans understand what the war was all about. So charges this scholar, author, and Vietnam veteran.

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.