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Herbert Hoover: The American Presidents Series: The 31st President, 1929-1933 Hardcover – January 6, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Powerful… [Herbert Hoover] is a superb example of the vitality and importance of political history… Mr. Leuchtenburg's biography reminds us that the personalities, actions and beliefs of political leaders have a profound effect on the rest of us.” ―The New York Observer
“Memorable… Hoover's chronicler, William E. Leuchtenburg… writes like an angel and spices his narrative with trenchant judgments about a president who seemed like Superman when he took office in 1929 but who quickly lost his magical powers in the face of the Great Depression… Readers will quite likely delight in discovering more for themselves.” ―The Dallas Morning News
“In this meaty little book, [Leuchtenburg] brings to the life of Hoover his own lifetime of study of this watershed moment in the American past… He is one of the foremost authorities on the 1930s, the New Deal, and FDR.” ―Slate.com
“[A] frank, thoughtful literary portrait… This is a fair and balanced reassessment of Herbert Hoover and his legacy that is long overdue.” ―Tucson Citizen
“William E. Leuchtenburg's… Herbert Hoover [is] a wonderful and instructive biography.” ―Richard Cohen, The Washington Post
“Timely.” ―The Bloomsbury Review
“A brilliantly written cautionary tale for those who believe a hard-nosed businessman would bring a breath of fresh air to the American presidency.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“In this outstanding addition to the American Presidents series, Bancroft Prize-winning historian Leuchtenburg… brings vivid prose and strong opinions to this richly insightful biography of a president whose impressive business acumen served him poorly.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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Top Customer Reviews
Leuchtenburg goes beyond the headlines and rough sketches of biographical information to show the complexity of Herbert Hoover, while bringing into better focus such controversial issues as his stated orders to the U.S. Army on handling the "Bonus Army," the plans to reform the nation's regulatory system and the shaping of economic policy before and during the Great Depression.
So publicly vilified after his 1932 landslide defeat to FDR, Hoover was truly a politician in the wilderness - even soundly rejected within Republican Party circles - but began a road out of the cold through President Harry Truman, who, in 1946, asked the former president to tour Germany to determine the food status in the occupied nation. It yielded a number of recommendations and the facilitation of a school meals program in the American and British occupation zones. Hoover's expertise in this field drew international accolades in the last world war; his tireless shuttle diplomacy proved successful in getting food distributed to civilian victims in Belgium and elsewhere who were caught in the crossfire of the fighting.
By the time of his death at age 90 in 1964, Hoover's image had begun to be rehabilitated, but many myths still remain in the public domain that continue to cloud over the real story. Leuchtenburg provides a fair and balanced assessment on the incredible life and remarkable times of the 31st President.
Nevertheless, the life history of Herbert Hoover is certainly interesting and instructional. A very successful businessman, administrator and bureaucrat, Hoover is widely blamed for the Great Depression and for failing to take the necessary actions to address the mounting crisis. Of course, this is certainly a simplistic argument, as Franklin Roosevelt, despite taking radical action, made only modest headway in economic recovery through the first eight years of his reign. Only the outbreak of World War II did the trick. Had Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1931 instead of 1941, perhaps Herbert Hoover would have been elevated to the pantheon of U. S. Presidents. As it is however, Hoover joins Buchanan among the ranks of failed Presidents whose successors (Lincoln in the case of Buchanan) are deemed to have cleaned up the messes they left behind.
Great Presidents are molded and elevated by the challenges they are forced to meet. Certainly, confronted by the Great Depression, Hoover had an historical opportunity, though perhaps an impossible task. Nevertheless, the autocratic skills that served him so well in his relief efforts in Belgium, the Soviet Union and the Mississippi Valley after the Great Flood of 1927 were ill suited to address the mounting economic ills of the Great Depression.Read more ›
Now, this is not an outright "hit piece" -- many positive aspects of Hoover's career are included -- but nonetheless, I'm afraid William Leuchtenburg falls solidly into the latter camp.
Before I go on, I need to let you know where I'm coming from, because this is such an important question with Hoover stuff. My interest in the man centers on his work in famine relief, particularly the Commission for Relief in Belgium. This was all work he did before anyone knew what his politics were. Frankly, I don't care about the New Deal or the politics thereof, except to be really annoyed with the fact that as a result of his involvement in it, Hoover is known more as a political symbol than as a historical figure. And while certainly no angel, Hoover was quite a historical figure. No one in the history of the world has ever saved as many lives -- not even close. The way I see it, that really ought to count for something, whatever the guy's politics.
That said, here's my take on this book:
Touches of unprofessional editorial commentary and de-contexted quotes come up from the very beginning of the book. On Page 4, Hoover's uncle John Minthorn is described as "avaricious." This may be true, but no other source I have read has described him so, and Leuchtenburg provides no source notes beyond a general bibliography.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As president he was terrible at feeding the hungry, but if the president ever needed a genius to feed the hungry, he was the man. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Anĉjo
This was such a shallow view of Herbert Hoover that it is difficult to take with you the essence of who the person was and how he actually thought, as you can with so many great... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
After reading the book, I can't say that M. Leuchtenburg was the right author to write a bio about Herbert Hoover. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Marc Ranger
It seems like President Hoover could do almost anything but communicate with people. He came up with many management strategies that were very productive, especially in feeding the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Robert Walters
Good book. Easy to read. Not ponderous or ensnared in details. Good for getting an historical overview of the man & era.Published 7 months ago by James R Blades
This volume represents a return to the quality, fairness and complete biography of each of our Presidents that for the most part represents the series of The American Presidents... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Stinson E. Humphrey
This book is the second in the Presidential series that I have read. The first book about the Presidency of Jimmy Carter was most enjoyable. This book maintains that momentum. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Michael Lapelosa