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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The American Presidents Series: The 32nd President, 1933-1945 Hardcover – November 4, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069594
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Distinguished British historian Jenkins (author of the recent bestselling biography Churchill) died in January 2003. He left this brief biography of FDR for Arthur Schlesinger's American Presidents series largely complete. Now published with a conclusion written by another eminent historian, Richard Neustadt, the volume comprises a concise yet coherent and quite reliable summation of Roosevelt's fascinating life and presidency. Jenkins captures FDR in all his contradictions. As the author astutely notes, although a Knickerbocker squire from New York's Hudson Valley-arguably the most Europe-oriented part of the United States-FDR was "peculiarly successful at transcending geography and uniting the continent." Whomever he met, he charmed, be it some simple farmer or Winston Churchill. But the one he charmed before most others, his fifth cousin and spouse, Eleanor Roosevelt, came to view him cynically. She recognized that intermixed with his enormous capacity and willingness to do good, there was a certain self-serving casualness that permitted numerous petty lies perpetrated on friends, allies and family. Elegantly describing FDR's course through a score of personal and political ordeals, Jenkins astutely shows us the man in all his many incarnations: the confident son of privilege who morphed into a wry, young politico on the rise; the startled victim, for whom all things had previously come so easily, hitting the brick wall of polio and fighting back, strenuously leading his broken country out of its two great 20th-century crises: the Great Depression and World War II.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-To distill the life of Roosevelt into a book of less than 200 pages is a major challenge; to succeed in doing so without shortchanging readers is a true accomplishment. As president, FDR faced America's worst financial crisis and the world's most destructive war. He also influenced the larger trends of the 20th century, from the progressive movement of his younger days to the Cold War and the welfare state that followed him. Jenkins admirably describes his subject's background and development and outlines how Roosevelt dealt with the Great Depression and the Second World War. But Jenkins is not only an accomplished biographer, he was also one of the leading British politicians of the second half of the 20th century. His nationality gives him a perspective on FDR that would be difficult to obtain as an American. Likewise, his study of other great political leaders allows him to gain a broader view of Roosevelt as president. This is one of the best short biographies of Roosevelt imaginable.
Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

It is very easy to read and suitable for high school students.
Todd Carlsen
Since I have been reading the American Presidents I was anxious to receive this book promptly.
Joel Kravetz
Unfortunately, the brief format of this series places great restraints on Jenkins.
Robert Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sadly, English politician and biographer Roy Jenkins died just before finishing this book, which was finished by Richard E. Neustadt, who himself recently passed away. In many ways, it is unfortunate that Jenkins wrote this particular biography of Roosevelt, instead of a different, much fuller one. There is a considerable need at the present for a substantial, single-volume biography of Roosevelt that covers his entire life. There are multi-volume biographies, and a wealth of single volume studies on a wide range of his career, but not an obvious choice for a one-volume work. A biography along the lines of Jenkins's GLADSTONE or CHURCHILL would have been a delight indeed. Furthermore, the format of this series does not ideally suit Jenkins's virtues as a biographer. He is at his best when he is free to ramble far a field, summoning up obscure comparisons between various individuals, slowly mulling over various possible motives for an action or belief. Unfortunately, the brief format of this series places great restraints on Jenkins.
Surprisingly, these restrictions hamper Jenkins less than one might expect. Although I would have preferred a much longer biography from him, what we have here is a highly serviceable biography that reflects Jenkins unique and mildly eccentric point of view. Jenkins, as in his other books, is far more concerned with conflict of personality than with intellectual or policy disputes. He is always at his best when describing how two individuals mesh or clash, the alchemy of personality. As a result, this book is more of a biography of Roosevelt's relationships than his policies and ideas. This is true also of his books on Gladstone and Churchill, and is both his virtue and vice as a writer.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on June 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The late Roy Jenkins, in assessing Roosevelt, rates him in the top three of all American Presidents, along with Washington and Lincoln. Whether you like FDR or whether you are one of his critics, it is hard to dispute Jenkins' conclusion. Jenkins believes that had FDR not run for a third term, he would have been one of the better, near great Presidents, but that it took WWII to make him the icon he became. Jenkins fails to point out that FDR did not create any appreciable number of private sector jobs prior to WWII and that, in fact, unemployment was almost as high as it was eight years earlier, when he took office. The reason may be that Jenkins had been a Labour Party member of the House of Commons, accordingly, his world view was that of a government interventionist. However, I ultimately agree that nontheless, FDR was, at least, a better than average President during the depression years, due to the great optimism that he conveyed.

I believe that Jenkins is correct, that FDR became one of the greatest Presidents due to the war. He led the United States in a great mobilization effort. Certainly, responding to events can make one great and FDR's optimistic leadership during the war made him great. This does not mean that he is beyond criticism, and Jenkins offers very little of that. Again, as a Labour party menmber, he would not have been as staunchly anticommunist as a Conservative, such as Churchill or later, Thatcher. Therefore, he spares FDR of any criticism for Yalta. His view is that since the USSR already occupied Poland, there was nothing to give away.

I must contrast this book with another book in the American Presidents series, Tom Wicker's biography of Eisenhower. Wicker could find almost nothing Ike did as President that did not deserve criticism.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tom Moran on April 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Roy Jenkins, the prolific biographer of British Prime Ministers Gladstone and Churchill (as well as American President Harry Truman), died early last year, before this slim biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was completed. But even in its flawed state (it was completed by Richard E. Neustadt), this is an impressive book by an author of great knowledge and erudition that illuminates in intriguingly quirky ways the epochal life of its subject.
Jenkins was an Englishman active in Labour politics for half a century, and his is a very British take on Roosevelt's life, which both works and doesn't work to Jenkins' advantage. It is always problematic when an author is not of the same nationality as the person he's writing about (William Manchester's still-to-be-completed biography of Churchill, for example, was much criticized by the British). Where Jenkins gains in giving us a new perspective on a oft-told tale, he sometimes loses in dragging in references to the subjects of his previous books (an occupational hazard of the prolific biographer) or comparing some American political situation to its British equivalent when the comparison is tenuous at best.
Some of his more British asides are lost on the average American reader (as when he opines that the style and appearance of Groton, the prep school that Roosevelt attended, supposedly an imitation of Eton, "were much more like Cheltenham's or Marlborough's"). Also, because the author died before he had the chance to read proof, the text is not as precise as it might have been had the author lived longer (there is at least one sentence that defeats my attempt to make sense of it grammatically - it starts on the 19th line of page 73 and begins with the words "In consequence...").
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The American Presidents Series: The 32nd President, 1933-1945
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