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Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (1882-1940) [Kindle Edition]

James MacGregor Burns
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This first of Burns’s definitive and award-winning two-volume biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, mapping the personal and professional development of one of America’s most brilliant politicians
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the longest serving president in US history, reshaping the country during the crises of the Depression and World War II. But before his unprecedented run as president, there were decades of steady consolidation of power. Here, renowned historian James MacGregor Burns traces Roosevelt’s rise and the peculiar blend of strength and cunning that helped make him such a uniquely transformative politician. Weaving together lively narrative and impressive scholarship, The Lion and the Fox is among the first—and most acclaimed—studies of Roosevelt’s time, his talents, and his flaws.

Editorial Reviews


“A case study unmatched in American political writings.” —Newsweek
“A sensitive, shrewd, and challenging book” —The New York Times
“An absorbing narrative, rich in detail . . . a brilliant full-length portrait of Franklin Roosevelt the politician.” —The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

James MacGregor Burns (b. 1918) is a bestselling American historian and political scientist whose work has earned both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Born in Boston, Burns fell in love with politics and history at an early age. He earned his BA at Williams College, where he returned to teach history and political science after obtaining his PhD at Harvard and serving in World War II. Burns’s two-volume biography of Franklin Roosevelt is considered the definitive examination of the politician’s rise to power, and his groundbreaking writing on the subject of political leadership has influenced scholars for decades. He currently serves as the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government Emeritus at Williams College and as Distinguished Leadership Scholar at the University of Maryland.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Political Biography of a Great President April 4, 2001
I recently had occasion to re-read James MacGregor Burns's marvelous Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox and was deeply impressed by how well its has withstood the test of time. The early paperback edition of this book, which was originally published in 1956 and covers the period from 1882 until 1940, characterized it as the "first political biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt," and it continues to be the authoritative study of Roosevelt's preparation for and then conduct of his first two terms as president, when domestic affairs demanded most of his attention. This remains a wonderful book about this country's greatest politician of the 20th century, and it also offers many penetrating insights into the American political system.
Burns's treatment of Roosevelt is comprehensive, "[treating] much of [Roosevelt's] personal as well as his public life, because a great politician's career remorselessly sucks everything into its vortex." Roosevelt was the only child of a member of the upstate New York landed gentry, and he could have led a life of leisure. Instead, he was sent to Groton School in Massachusetts, where the headmaster, according to Burns, "made much of his eagerness to educate his boys for political leadership." Roosevelt completed his formal education at Harvard College and Columbia University Law School. Burns writes that Roosevelt's first elective office, as a New York State Senator was a "political education," and he became a "Young Lion" in Albany. Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in Washington, D.C., during World War I and was the candidate for Vice President on the Democrat Party's unsuccessful ticket in 1920. In 1921, Roosevelt was stricken with polio, and the crippling disease would have ended the public career of a less ambitious and determined man.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decidedly Insightful March 16, 2000
Gives a fantastic account of FDR from his privileged childhood and days at Groton, to his harsh induction into the world of politics; the skill at which he maneuvered the political currents to the New York Capital in Albany, and ultimately the White House. Once there Burns gives an account of passionate dedication to the American people, both during the Depression and WWII, that most likely was not seen since Lincoln. A must for anyone's Presidential Biographical collection.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Title Says It All August 29, 2000
FDR was perhaps the craftiest politician to occupy the White House since Lincoln. The Title, "...Lion and the Fox" is an allusion to Machiavelli's dictum that one must be stouthearted like a lion and crafty like a fox. FDR combined these qualities to achieve political mastery of his time.
This book focus on his life up to the start of WWII. It paints a thorough life portrait of the president and illustrates the events and experiences that shaped this master politician. Although enjoying congressional majorities like no other president (that certainly aided the implementation of his program), FDR had to over come the reluctance of both GOP and Democrat conservatives to rework the federal government into the active economic and social player it is today. McGreggor's book explains how FDR the man made the New Deal possible.
This is a well written book that gives evidence of being thoroughly researched. For anyone interested in presidential history, I'd recommend this book.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST for FDR fans! March 18, 1997
By A Customer
This is the best account of pre-WWII FDR that has been
written. Burns combines established facts with a commentary
that examines the 32nd President's possible psychological
views on issues. From major decisions during the New Deal
to relationships with Eleanor and staff members, Burns
paints an objective picture of FDR. The picture is neither
rosy nor clouded, but is an intimate portrait of the longest-
serving President in American history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HOW FDR LED DURING HIS FIRST TWO TERMS April 25, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Now in his nineties, the eminent historian James MacGregor Burns devoted much of his career to the study of leadership, and how leaders interacted with others to persuade them to follow in their direction. While Burns was personally an unabashed admirer of Franklin Roosevelt and voted for him four times, The Lion and the Fox, the first of a two-volume work, is not a slavish devotional. Hardly showing any bias, Burns wrote the book as a true academic study of FDR 'S life through his first two presidential terms. Another historian, the octogenarian Paul Johnson, hardly an admirer of the New Deal, called Burns Roosevelt's best biographer. He may well be right.

Roosevelt had strengths and weaknesses. He believed in little except Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the idea that he was elected to do something, anything, to alleviate the Depression. He was not analytical, preferring to learn by discussion. He knew nothing about economics. He thought government was ripe for experimentation, never caring about the potential nuances of the law he executed. He did what he had to do to gain support, never committing to anything until he gathered sufficient backing for this program or that. On the surface, and to the public, he appeared affable, but had a mean streak. He was upper class, but appealed to all sorts of people through his ability to communicate.

This is not the book for analysis of New Deal policies or their effects. Burns is uninterested in the subject of what those policies accomplished, or how they failed, which they essentially did. What matters to the author is how Roosevelt could get liberals and sometimes, old line Democrat conservatives to follow his lead, how he interacted with them. He even backed Republicans for office in the 1934 off-year election if they were of help.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics
Its a very good biography. It explains politics very good. It shows/tells how candidates are set-up for running for elections. It gives a complete picture of politics.
Published 13 days ago by Martha M. Velez
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent political history. Outstanding
Published 17 days ago by Rafael
5.0 out of 5 stars I am enjoying it very much since I lived during ...
I am enjoying it very much since I lived during all of his presidential terms and attended his very first inauguration as a teenager. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Mildrede Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 21 days ago by Claire A. Hattendorf
3.0 out of 5 stars A good, preliminary biography
So much more is known about FDR since this book was written that it should not be considered a definitive biography of FDR. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Word Junkie
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it. I have read a dozen FDR books
I loved it. I have read a dozen FDR books, and I felt this one was probably the best balanced of all biographies.
Published 25 days ago by Janine Kredell, retired teacher
5.0 out of 5 stars FDR Observed Up-close
Dr. Burns makes the early pre- World War II portion of FDR's life and career come alive. His credentials as an historian are impeccable, and he writes like a novelist. Read more
Published 25 days ago by William R. Bouknight
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book has motivated me to read more of this era in history, especially the Roosevelt family.
Published 28 days ago by NormTurner
3.0 out of 5 stars The prose is pretty dry and subjective regarding Roosevelt's...
Very informative and interesting but not exactly a page turner. The prose is pretty dry and subjective regarding Roosevelt's motivations and management style. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Terry E. Simms
4.0 out of 5 stars Burns is a wonderful writer and excellent historian
Burns is a wonderful writer and excellent historian. His work on this book is beyond first rate. He conveys perfectly the times and the problems facing FDR in 1933 when he first... Read more
Published 29 days ago by George May
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