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176 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling book that makes history come alive!
David Kennedy's book, "Freedom From Fear" is a monumental achievement of historical writing.
Covering the years from just before outbreak The Great Depression to the end of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the author focuses on the impact which Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had on America during this seminal...
Published on July 22, 1999 by Lawrence Auerbach

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141 of 160 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grand, but ultimately disappointing
After looking at all the extremely positive views of Freedom From Fear, it is with some trepidation that I offer some negative comments. This is a book that I really looked forward to reading and wanted very much to like. On the positive side, I must state that I learned a great deal, particularly about the depression, that I did not know. And I also certainly admire...
Published on April 12, 2001 by Ross Hardter


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176 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling book that makes history come alive!, July 22, 1999
This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
David Kennedy's book, "Freedom From Fear" is a monumental achievement of historical writing.
Covering the years from just before outbreak The Great Depression to the end of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the author focuses on the impact which Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had on America during this seminal period of our history, and how his influence still impacts on our country today.
"Freedom From Fear" is an extremely long book--over 900 pages in length--and the early chapters, detailing various aspects of The "New Deal" and the many agencies under the "New Deal" which F.D.R. helped establish, are a bit too detailed and not quite as interesting as the rest of the book. But none of the wealth of information which Kennedy gives is dull or uninteresting--and when Kennedy starts to write about the events that occurred in Europe and the Pacific during World WarII, his book becomes as enthralling as any novel.
A previous Amazon Reviewer faults Kennedy for being anti-Rosevelt and says that Kennedy feels "nothing Roosevelt did seems right." I wonder if we have read the same book! Kennedy is an obvious admirer of F.D.R. and does not hesitate to point out his many accomplishments and praise his ability as a politician and "visionary" in helping to draw so many conflicting elements in Congress and the country as a whole, together.
Kennedy DOES point out that Roosevelt kept many of his thoughts and motives to himself--and that even his closest friends didn't know always exactly what he was THINKING. But the fact remains that F.D.R. accomplished wonders in drawing our country together and restoring a "Faith in ourselves" as a nation, that was woefully lacking until he became president. Kennedy gives more than ample credit to Rosevelt's accomplishments, and is an impartial enough as a historian to also mention his weaknesses and faults. Fortunately for our country, his accomplishments far outweigh his weaknesses!
A further observation about this book, which I think should attract a wide readership and make his book appealing to all organization is superb! His writing is extremely clear and free of "pedanticism." His chapters, describing the various battles fought during World War II (i.e. The Battle of Midway; Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, etc.), are as riveting as any novel.Written as a historian, Kennedy still has a novelist's flair for bringing what he writes about to life on the printed page. The "facts" he presents are totally free from "colorization"--but the WAY he presents them is dramatic and thoroughly engrossing.
One of the most appealing aspects of his book is his "organization" of material. His accounts of the personalities of many of the world leaders described in his book are seemlessly interspersed with the history he is describing. His "profiles" of various leaders are gems of cogent brevity.
"Freedom From Fear" is historical writing at its best--detailed, always interesting--and dramatic in in impact. It amply deserves to win a Pulitzer Prize--which I hope it does!
Larry Auerbach, Las Vegas, NV
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141 of 160 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grand, but ultimately disappointing, April 12, 2001
By 
Ross Hardter (Reston, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
After looking at all the extremely positive views of Freedom From Fear, it is with some trepidation that I offer some negative comments. This is a book that I really looked forward to reading and wanted very much to like. On the positive side, I must state that I learned a great deal, particularly about the depression, that I did not know. And I also certainly admire Dr. Kennedy for tackling such a massive project and condensing the results into a single volume. But therein, I think, lay the seeds of some of the difficulties. Specifically, I have three problems with it.
First, because he is trying to cover so much, the book ends up being just a broad survey and, of necessity, omits too much, and places too much reliance on secondary sources. This is probably inevitable considering the scope of the project and the vast literature available. Each chapter covers a particular theme, which makes the book look like a series of lectures or articles, rather than a unified whole.
Second, the book badly needed a good editing before publication. There are two problems here. The first is that stories are repeated, almost verbatim, in different chapters, and occasionally even within a single chapter. The second is that, in the areas with which I am familiar, I found numerous factual errors. To cite just three, at the battle of the Philippine Sea it was not Raymond Spruance, commander of the Fifth Fleet, who ordered the lights turned on for the returning aircraft, but Marc Mitscher, commander of the carrier groups. Again, it was not Thomas Kinkaid, commander of the Seventh Fleet, who "crossed the T" at Surigao Strait, but rather Jesse Oldendorf, who commanded the battleships and other fire support ships. But my favorite is the photo caption which refers to the horizontal stabilizer in the tail assembly of a B-17 as its "rear wing". If I'm able to spot these errors in areas with which I'm familiar, it makes me wonder about how many there may be in areas with which I'm not familiar.
My last criticism is the most important, and that deals with the tone of the book. As a couple of reviewers have mentioned, the author is negative about nearly everyone in the cast of characters, most especially about Roosevelt and Churchill. (Among the exceptions are Truman (who comes in only at the very end), Hopkins, and, most peculiarly, Stalin.) I suspect the problem may be that Dr. Kennedy is just too far removed from the events he describes. Everyone knew that Roosevelt and Churchill had faults and made mistakes. But they have to be viewed in the true context in which they lived and operated. They were both heroic figures who did the best they could in situations that few have ever experienced or could handle. ...
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magisterial & Authoratative Look At The Crisis Years!, July 30, 2000
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
With this wonderful book, David Kennedy has produced a definitive treatment of the crisis of the century, a book of epic proportions; one detailing, describing and explaining the many ways in which the insoluble social, economic, and political maelstrom that enveloped this country is related to the history of what came thereafter. As in other recent tomes such as Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Times" and Tom Brokow's The Greatest Generation", the present volume is quite explicit in meaningfully linking how the harrowing kinds of experiences, trials, and tribulations of the American people helped to forge the kind of character, determination, and resolve that was later so instrumental in meeting the challenges associated with the Second World War.
Yet unlike Brokow's effort and that of other historians like Stephen Ambrose, Kennedy avoids wide use of primary interviewing, and the difference this leads to in the tone and perspective of the book is telling. Like Goodwin's effort, this is a superb book, wonderfully written, eminently accessible (an important quality given its length of nearly 900 pages), with a sometimes soaring prose style that is so distinctive and so refreshing that reading it is a joy. This is history come to life, full of the color and hues of the original events, presented in a manner that is at once both academically sophisticated and yet available and readable by the general audience. Kennedy makes the reader feel as though he is present in the moment, experiencing the events as they transpire rather than eavesdropping some seventy or so years after the fact. Hearing about the ways in which feckless Herbert Hoover, for example, was in many ways the helpless victim of circumstances is quite interesting.
So is his take on so many other personalities and issues of the time, from the particulars of the New Deal and how they were conceived all the way to the insidious domestic treatment and 'internment' of Japanese Americans after the outbreak of WWII. Of course, Kennedy's book is rife with interesting and often provocative interpretations of the events, and this willingness to weigh in intelligently and convincingly adds to the overall entertainment and intellectual value of the book. While I didn't necessarily agree with all of these interpretations or his conclusions, it is always a pleasure to be in the presence of such an active, nimble and creative intellect. This is a book that anyone with an interest in the literally endless ways we were formed in the crucible of events of the past as well as by the people who came before us will want to experience this absolutely top-shelf new work by David Kennedy. Enjoy!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prof. Kennedy is a great writer! Wish he was my hist. prof., January 23, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
I loved this book because he writes the way I wish more history books were written--which is a book full of facts based on meticulous research, yet the writer not being afraid to make his own judgement about events(particularly policies of the New Deal by FDR). I figure I am paying for the wealth of knowledge and opinion of Prof. Kennedy. As far as opinion, it seems very objective and impartial. Although I detected sympathies.

I greatly enjoyed the first part on the New Deal and the way the writer incorporates the human equation of individuals with the policies on a larger government scale. This made is very enthralling and easy to read. It was almost like a historical novel. I think it takes a very self confident history professor to write like that.

The second part on WWII was a good general overview. As a student of WWII history, I felt Prof. Kennedy could have incoporated more humaness to it like he did during the first part of the book.

One aspect I enjoyed was his focus on the aerial war(combined bomber offensive) as it was woven in nicely with the grand scheme of US involvement in the European Theater of Operation(ETO). Most books focus on separately on only the land war or air war.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughy researched, well-written, balanced, insightful, March 22, 2000
This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
As a former student of Professor Kennedy's at Stanford, I confess bias. Nevertheless, David illuminates America's past like no other historian, contemporary or past. He has a unique talent for captivating readers, setting the stage and making the reader feel they are at ringside. We often forget the ordeal and emotion of the Great Depression and World War II, the Fireside Chats, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Roosevelt and Hiroshima. Kennedy has painstakingly researched this book, inserting commentaries from those who made history plus his own penetrating insights. You will find balance and fairness here, not partisan rhetoric or pedantry. Hoover was in many respects ahead of his time (although some accuse Kennedy wrongfully of a Stanford bias), McArthur knew how to stroke the PR machinery, Roosevelt was a shrewd politician, Churchill was a master manipulator, Stalin a man whose patience ran thin waiting for a promised Second Front. Other great portraits include John L. Lewis, Huey Long, Father Coughlin, General Patton ... what a great read! Buy this book!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A monumental historical work., June 11, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
Professor Kennedy has given us a monumental work on a critical period in the history of the United states and the world. Kennedy displays an intuitve understanding of the causes of the great depression. He gives us a new and positive inter- pretation of Herbert Hoover. In Kennedy's view the ''Great Engineer'' is a closet liberal who paved the way for the new deal. Kennedy clearly is an admirer of Franklin Roosevelt,but is not blind to his hero's shortcomings. The author frankly admits that the new deal did not end the depression and that during WWII Roosevelt was decieved by Joseph Stalin. Kennedy gives a superb account of the political radicalism of the thirties complete with unforgetable portraits of Huey Long and Father Coughlin. The account of the second world war also rises to the occassion. I found this book to be a fascinating read and I highly reccomend it. Thank you Professor Kennedy.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This one sets a new standard as a history of this era, November 1, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover)
This is a superb, gripping book, with fresh insights throughout. The concluding epilogue alone is worth the price as a fine summary of a pivotal era that shadows us still. Douglas Kennedy is too intelligent, informed and felicitous a writer and historian to accept orthodox presumptions that govern our thinking of the era. His discussions of the economic forces at work - while glazed over by some readers - are well worth the effort as they give the patient reader a chance to understand the bedrock of the present global system. Some readers may find him a bit too dismissive of MacArthur, or perhaps a mite too kind to Hoover. And perhaps the book could have done a stronger job explaining the foundations of the global economy set in the closing years of the war and just after - an American legacy that may already dwarf the welcome but ambiguous Cold War victory. But these are small cavils; his facts are solid. This is a great history that skillfully blends human drama, historical analysis and a great arsenal of scholarship. You can't go wrong on this one; it was a pure pleasure to read.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall a very good history of the United States from 1929 - 1945, July 20, 2006
By 
Koreen (United States) - See all my reviews
David Kennedy's "Freedom from Fear," the 9th volume of the Oxford History of the United States, is a generally exceptionally well researched history covering from the Great Depression to the end of World War II. In this book, Kennedy offers a summary and a synthesis of research by dozens of historians, as well as giving his own personal interpretations of key events and individuals.

I believe most of David Kennedy's interpretations and judgments are well reasoned. However, I disagree with his deemphasis upon the major decline in the stock market between late 1929 - 1931 as one of the main causes of the Great Depression.

Even more so I dissent very strongly with David Kennedy's suggestion the Roosevelt administration should have tried harder to avoid war with Japan by essentially appeasing Japanese aggression against China. To quote from his book, Kennedy writes on page 513: "Why not acquiesce, however complainingly, in the Japanese action in China, reopen at least limited trade with Japan..." Given the fact that Japanese aggression and atrocities in China were as bad or worse as Germany's in Europe by late 1941, I find Kennedy's opinion morally reprehensible.

In general, this is a very good book, covering social, economic, political and military history of the era. However, don't read "Freedom from Fear," expecting to learn much about cultural history in the United States between the Great Depression and World War II.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Iluminating Book, March 22, 2008
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I've never read a book this long (858 pp) before for pleasure, but I found the Freedom book so illuminating. I am 87 yr old and the book covers my youth, from age 8 to 23--and oh, did I experience personally the depression and the war! It was good to fill in the details and understanding of things where I had fragmentary but profound experiences. I remember farmers dumping milk because they couldn't sell it. I remember FDR's fireside chats and the hope he gave my family. And I remember at night walking around holding my 3 week old colicy baby while listening to the radio reports of D-day landings.

Kennedy has done a superb job and I owe him great thanks. Lu Ann Darling
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterwork by a Master Historian, October 1, 2001
By 
A. H. Lynde "ahlynde" (Ewa Beach, HI United States) - See all my reviews
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It is not often that one has the privilege of reading a historical masterpiece. David M. Kennedy's Freedom From Fear affords us that rare opportunity. This is one of those unique histories which transcends its genre, becoming at once art and literature behind the unseen hand of the master storyteller. The very attempt to write of America in the transformative years 1929-1945 would daunt the greatest writers. The wonder of this achievement is that it so elegantly and lucidly tells the story, with such apparent ease, of two great wars -- the Great Depression and World War II. Most importantly Kennedy throughout maintains his ultimate perspective - the American people, the highest and the most 'ordinary', shown against the backdrop of enormously complex domestic and international events. If you want to learn (and teach, as I do) about this period of enormous upheaval in 20th century America, this is the book.
To the specifics. Kennedy in his prologue places the major players in their respective, middling stations on November 11, 1918: Lance Corporal Hitler in hospital; munitions minister Churchill staring at Big Ben chiming 11:00; commissar Stalin "dealing" with counterrevolutionaries; Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt awakening to a riotous din of celebration. Kennedy tells us Hoover's official theory of the Depression: "The primary cause of the Great Depression was the war of 1914-1918." But Kennedy wisely notes that the Depression was sui generis, "thus far [resisting] comprehensive explanation".
Then in a lightning succession of almost breathtaking chapters, Kennedy gives us just that. He leads us through the fateful years with exhaustive unobtrusive scholarship, tinged at times with irony, mostly tempered with empathy. One cannot read this book and not feel a reverence for this land and its people, as the author undoubtedly intended.
Though the facts pour forth furiously, we glide through them, rendered as they are into good old plain English. As we progress through each chapter, the suspense builds unfailingly toward a dramatic, sometimes breathless, climax. This is a whale of a page-turner. Thus, for example, "an epidemic of failures flashed through the banking system" and the "suspension of the Bank of the United States represented the largest bank failure in American history...[holding] the savings of some 400,000 persons." Then at the end of the chapter, "Panic": "In short order, what was still in 1931 called the depression was about to become the unprecedented calamity known to history as the Great Depression."
Hoover, in 1928 "the most competent man in America, maybe in the world", did everything wrong. FDR, "master reconciler" coined the simple phrase that would give a name to an era, "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people." Nobody knew what it meant. More apt, perhaps, was his exhortation to "above all, try something." Thus, the hundred days of furious activity in the capital, while the nation continued to fall precipitously into the brink. A cartoon showed a farmer shaking the hand of a tall, erect, standing FDR: "Yes, you remembered me." But it was of course the war that 'saved' the farmer and in fact the world.
The second half of the book takes us through World War II with remarkable insight into the key diplomatic, geopolitical and military events that shaped its ends. While "America slid back into its historic attitude of isolationism", Hitler "feared nothing from the United States." While Chamberlain parroted "peace in our time", Churchill fulminated that "this is only the beginning of the reckoning." But while America was becoming "the great arsenal of democracy", in FDR's words, the Great Depression began to end. Kennedy again shows an uncanny talent for placing the specific into the context of the great. In 1937, he notes, "America turned out 4.8 million cars, Japan 26,000." The importance? In Stalin's words, "the most important things in this war are machines....The United States...is a country of machines." Kennedy condemns the perfidy of the disaster at Pearl Harbor, but rightly places it in its broader context as "systemic, pervasive...embedded in a tangle of only partially thought-out strategic assumptions...colored by smug attitudes of racial superiority." The drug-addicted Hitler is not informed of D-Day until noon. Such details, running throughout the book, bring to mind Richard III's kingdom for a horse, juxtaposing the small against the large, leading to disaster (some for us, most for 'them').
Due respect is finally accorded the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Japanese (segregated) unit that conspicuously distinguished itself, while Americans of Japanese ancestry were interned at home in concentration camps, again a touch of the great empathy of the author for often forgotten Americans.
Finally, the striking photos are integral to the theme of the American in the time of his greatest trial. Standing alone, they expose much of the history Kennedy explains. The cheering mobs in Philadelphia on November 11, 1918; a "we cater to white trade only" sign; a vast breadline in New York; "Okies" in California; Hoover's pursed lips and narrowed eyes as he sits uncomfortably next to FDR; FDR speaking to a North Dakota farmer from his open car; Ford goons breaking a strike; FDR with brain trusters Ickes, Wallace, Hopkins; the demagogues Long, Lewis, Coughlin; Hitler giving a Nazi salute with a smug Goering below him. The war photos are equally evocative, a Marine's face at Palau; Ike speaking to men on the eve of D-Day, "fearing that he was sending most of these men to their deaths"; Buchenwald; "Little Boy"; and Churchill, Truman and Stalin smiling with hands clasped at Potsdam. In sum, if there is any book you should read about this monumental era, it is this book.
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