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The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America Paperback – February 9, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (February 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138729
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As president, Theodore Roosevelt modeled himself after the man he admired most--his father, who believed in moral justice--and after the man his father admired most--President Lincoln, for his ability to be both a radical reformer and a shrewdly conservative politician. Although all three men were Republicans, TR grew further away from the party ideals held by the privileged class into which he was born (a life dedicated to pleasure bored him, and he was stimulated by the opportunities politics presented despite its grimy reputation), pushing for better conditions for workers, nationalized health care, the Pure Food and Drug Act and much more. His fifth cousin, Franklin (husband to TR's favorite niece), consciously mimicked TR's career path, going from assistant secretary of the navy, to New York governor, to president, eventually following another reform-oriented mentor, Woodrow Wilson, to become a Democrat. Growing up knowing little about politics, Eleanor Roosevelt was active in Junior League volunteerism and later the League of Women Voters, but it was under the influence of her husband's aide Louis Howe that she refined her political voice as a "big stick" activist like her uncle TR and her husband, who founded the welfare state. Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Burns (Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom) and Williams College professor Dunn (The Deaths of Louis XVI) do an excellent job of summarizing the political theology shared by these three Knickerbocker bluebloods, who were, in their time, categorized as "class traitors." While offering no new details, Burns and Dunn nevertheless succeed in approaching their subjects with grace, respect and insight. In the end, they do great justice to three remarkable lives superbly lived. (Mar.) Forecast: The Roosevelts remain a popular subject for readers, and with Burns's excellent reputation and the wide reviews this is bound to receive, it should sell handsomely beyond the narrow history market.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this eloquent book, noted political scientist and biographer Burns (Univ. of Maryland and Williams Coll.) demonstrates the masterly use of political psychology to understand both the power of leaders and the dynamic between leaders and followers. Co-written with Dunn (literature, Williams Coll.), this comparative case study of the Roosevelt political triumvirate applies Burns's leadership theory to Theodore and Franklin; an extension of his theory is also applied to Eleanor, the unelected member of the trio who was a national and world leader nonetheless. Skillfully woven throughout is the influence Abraham Lincoln had on the trioDa thread that gives this work cohesiveness and additional depth. A significant psychological element shared by all three was that they were members of society's upper crust who came to identify with those given society's crumbs. Essential.DWilliam D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A fascinating story, well told.
L. Feld
(Einstein had the top spot). "The Three Roosevelts" is a good way to learn about the three Roosevelts without having to read three lengthy biographies.
Todd Carlsen
Burns and Dunn have incorporated current academic research into their book.
charles falk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By charles falk VINE VOICE on April 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of the pleasures of reading "The Three Roosevelts" by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn is that it reminds us of a time when this country achieved great things under great leaders. During the presidency of Republican Theodore Roosevelt the federal government challenged the activities of powerful, unregulated industries, protected the health and rights of working people, protected consumers from contaminated food and unsafe drugs, and built the Panama Canal. Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt oversaw the building of monumental dams and bridges that serve us still, created the Social Security system, and led the country effectively through the worst war the world has seen. Eleanor Roosevelt mobilized the conscience of her country and of the world on important issues of social justice after her husband and uncle had left the stage. It is chilling to contemplate how the world would look today had they not played the transforming roles they did.
The book is really a hybrid -- part biography and part political history. At times, it is organized, like "My Six Crises", around specific problems i.e. FDR and Court-packing, TR and the trusts, rather than according to chronological order. This synthesis limits details of the personal lives of the three in order to fill in eighty years' worth of historical context. Burn, emeritus historian of Williams College, has written two previous works on FDR. Dunn is Professor of the History of Ideas at Williams and has written about the French Revolution. The book's purpose, they say, is to examine how these three, members of a patrician family and a privileged class, became great "transformational leaders" of the 20th century.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By L. Feld on May 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
All in all, "The Three Roosevelts" is well written, interesting, hard to put down, even a "page-turner" at times. Problems? Just a few. First is the sheer sprawling scope of the undertaking - ONE book on THREE Roosevelts, when there have been volumes written on EACH Roosevelt? But, overall this works pretty well here, and like the Roosevelts themselves, it's hard to fault the authors for trying to cover too much ground. A more fundamental problem with the book is that although the three Roosevelts' lives overlapped to an extent, their political careers and activities were more or less separate, sometimes giving this book the feel of really being three books sort of stuck together. First, we have a relatively short book on Teddy Roosevelt, followed by a moderately long book on FDR, and then another relatively short book on Eleanor. Are there common themes here tying it all together? Absolutely. But are there also three separate individuals here, each with his/her own story? Absolutely. The last fault of "The Three Roosevelts" is perhaps the most problematic; namely, the authors obviously LOVE their subjects, and the overwhelming positive slant on all three Roosevelts (the authors occasionally cite a fault, but usually just to show how the particular Roosevelt in question overcame it and became a better person) can become a little annoying at times, and even hurt the authors' credibility somewhat. Personally, I agree that these three people were amazing, fascinating, important, even heroic figures, but they were certainly not perfect. The internment of Japanese-Americans under FDR, to cite just one example, is an absolute disgrace, a moral outrage, and a HUGE blot on FDR's record.Read more ›
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
It may have seemed like a good idea to write mini biographies of three prominent American citizens with the same surname and place them between the same covers but it doesn't really work. Burns's admiration for FDR is nothing new, and his (and his co-author Susan Dunn's)coverage of Eleanor Roosevelt is little short of hagiography. The poor relation of this book is Teddy Roosevelt. We get a bare bones account of the life and career of this fascinating individual before we move on to the meat of the book, the life and career of FDR. Unfortunately there is little analytical comparison between the presidencies of TR and FDR except to say that they both moved to the left in their political philosophies. At a more trivial level we are told of the remarkable similarities between the career paths of the two titans but just how much this was planned by FDR is unclear. The overlap in their political lives is not very revealing with TR coming to the end of his groundbreaking career and FDR beginning his. One note of discord was FDR's choice of party. We get glimpses of both personalities but not enough, TR the domineering presence who overwhelmed all who met him, who was possibly one of the most intelligent men to hold the office of president, and FDR the highly self-aware, calculating politician who had an uncanny ability to tap into the American psyche. TR was also the subject of a multiple biography by James Chace (1912; Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and Debs - the Election That Changed the Country). He fares better here with both Taft and Debs being relegated to bit parts. The treatment of Eleanor Roosevelt in this book is truly gentle. Although she did some great work in the UN (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be her undying legacy) she had difficulty escaping her patrician past.Read more ›
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