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Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Hardcover – November 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: With Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, H.W. Brands penetrates the clenched grin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a masterful biography of one of America's most beloved leaders. Though born into the upper crust of society, FDR dedicated his career to fighting for the common good and the ideals of the American Dream. With the same exhaustive research familiar to fans of his biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson, Brands provides a portrait of an unflinching (and often recalcitrant) figure whose unshakable confidence inspired a beleaguered nation. FDR's path may have been unorthodox (evidenced by an unprecedented 12 years spent as commander-in-chief) and arguably illegal (the New Deal didn't always work well with the Constitution), but his shared goal of a stronger America at home and abroad endeared him to voters of varying backgrounds. "We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern," proclaimed Roosevelt in 1937. "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." -- -Dave Callanan

From Publishers Weekly

It is unfortunate for University of Texas historian Brands (Andrew Jackson) that his serviceable biography of Franklin Roosevelt comes on the heels of Jean Smith's magisterial Francis Parkman Prize winner, FDR (2007). Still, Brands provides an entirely adequate narrative detailing the well-known facts of Roosevelt's life. We have the young Knickerbocker aristocrat somewhat tentatively entering the dog-eat-dog world of local Democratic politics in New York's Hudson Valley. We have him embarking on a marriage with his cousin Eleanor that was fated to be politically successful but personally disastrous. We also have the somewhat spoiled son of privilege facing the first real battle of his life—polio—and emerging with greatly enhanced fortitude and empathy. Appropriately, Brands gives two-thirds of his book to FDR's presidency and its two most dramatic events: the domestic war against devastating economic depression (fought with tools that many in America's upper classes considered socialist), and the international war against Axis power aggression. It is fitting that Roosevelt commands the amount of scholarly attention that he does, but sad that so much is wholly redundant with what has come before. 16 pages of photos. (Nov. 4)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385519583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385519588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

H.W. Brands taught at Texas A&M University for sixteen years before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History. His books include Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, and TR. Traitor to His Class and The First American were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Joan A. Adamak VINE VOICE on June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Traitor to His Cause

When I first saw the size of this book, I hesitated to read something so daunting, but I was born in 1930, my parents were Republicans and didn't know the overall picture and only saw what seemed to be waste occurring. I decided to read this book to determine the truth of events that I could remember from having been a child. Although I stray from reviewing the book per se, since this has already been adequately done, I want to show the readers how this man left a lasting impression and love by the American people, and his enemies were usually of a political nature. It is truly difficult to comprehend how an individual raised in an atmosphere of such wealth and power could turn his back on it as he did.

This author did such an excellent job of showing Roosevelt, the man, and how hard he worked to finally get to the Presidency. The book deeply covered the corruption of politics in D.C. and the country and the maneuvering that took place. It also showed how FDR could manipulate people. This book truly opened up politics as it was and is. In the newsreels he never showed his physical pain caused by the braces. In fact, the newsreels photographed him in such a way that most of us did not know how crippled he was. I never would have thought of him as being handsome because I saw him on the newsreels when he was older. The newspapers never revealed his extra-marital relationships and so that came as a shock years later to the public at large.

I truly commend his consideration of the people of Warm Springs, Georgia, which caused him to try to increase wages for the very poor, which the book hints he never realized until he had spent time in the rural areas.
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138 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Cory Geurts on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of H.W. Brands, so I was excited when I learned that FDR was going to be his next release. Brands' literary style is superb; he always provides ample background into the subject so that the reader walks away with a thorough understanding, yet he is able to portray these people in an engaging way so one never has the feeling of having read a dry textbook.

Traitor To His Class is an exceptional book. You get all the background, not only of FDR, Eleanor, Sara, & family, but also of the political scene of the time including TR and Woodrow Wilson, the failed economy and FDR's New Deal, WWII and Churchill from the ingenious 'lend lease' up through Pearl Harbor, Truman and ultimately his death at Warm Springs. Brands is able to place the reader inside the mindset of FDR as all of this history is being made.

It is difficult to write a concise review of such a well-researched and masterfully written work. If you've read Brands before, you'll love Traitor To His Class just as much if not more than his other works. For those who are new to Brands and are looking for an FDR biography/history, I would highly recommend this one due to the attention to detail and intelligent yet friendly presentation. You won't be disappointed.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. Landau on December 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Seldom does one find an 800-page history text to be a "page turner", but this is such a book. Brands is a superb biographer; he organizes and tells the story of the first half of the 20th century in an absolutely fascinating way. One cannot help but recognize how little people and politics have changed -- the same greed and corruption among politicians and Wall Street, the same theme of conservative versus progressive politics and of government once again coming to the rescue of free-market capitalism. The similarities to the current economic and political situation require careful consideration by the reader.

Put this together with Behrman's "The Most Noble Adventure" regarding the Marshall Plan and you follow many of the same players into the next generation. Both books are written so well as to read like novels.

A great gift for anyone interested in history and/or politics.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shawn S. Sullivan on February 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
H.W. Brands' Traitor to His Class, The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the finest one volume biography of FDR. It eclipses Jean Edward Smith's recent entry on this well covered topic. What makes Brands' work superior is his research, his opinions and his balance.
Brands. "He (FDR) believed in democracy - in the capacity of ordinary Americans, exercising their collective judgment, to address the ills that afflicted their society. He refused to rely on the invisible hand of the marketplace, for the compelling reason that during his lifetime the invisible hand had wreaked very visible havoc on millions of unoffending Americans. He refused to accept that government invariably bungled whatever it attempted, and his refusal inspired government efforts that had a tremendous positive effect on millions of marginal farmers, furloughed workers, and struggling merchants . . . Did he get everything right? By no means, and he never claimed he did. But he got a great deal right. He caught the banking system in free fall and guided it to a soft landing. He sponsored rules that helped prevent a recurrence of the banking collapse and the stock market crash that preceded it".

While some might question that last sentence, it would be stretch to expect even a great man to have the foresight to see what markets would "innovate" sixty years after his death. His research is excellent, his writing within grasp of a non-scholar and is simply a highly informative and enjoyable historical read.
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