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Why We Fight: Congress and the Politics of World War II Hardcover – April 5, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (April 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700619178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700619177
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Essential reading for those interested in American politics and the emergence of the modern warfare state."—Journal of American Studies

About the Author

Nancy Beck Young is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Houston and author of Lou Henry Hoover: Activist First Lady; Wright Patman: Populism, Liberalism, and the American Dream; and, with Lewis L. Gould, Texas, Her Texas: The Life and Times of Frances Goff.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Terrence McGarty on April 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The history of WW II is often written with a focus on FDR and Churchill. However, this book presents the details of how Congress in all it complexities played a role. This is an academic book, namely it goes into the detail one would expect and demand from such a work, yet it is highly approachable.

There is a large cast of characters which unfold over the years of the war. One sees another side of FDR, a side where his control over Congress was not as thorough as one would have surmised from histories on him alone. The flow of various characters, including the memorable Claude Pepper amongst others brings to life the Congress as a living working organ.

The book is strong on its detail but weaker on its personal insights. As stated this is an historical record of the other side, namely Congress.

One nit which was confusing was the author's use of charts. She sets out classes of folks in Congress and one is left to guess who was where. The principle she was trying to make was of value but to the reader the facts were missing. The problem is she tried this again and again. Also, and this is a common issue with many authors, the number of people acknowledged often leaves the reader who was missed.

Overall this is a valuable contribution and can be read in concert with the many issues we face again today in our Congress.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark Klobas VINE VOICE on April 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Most accounts of governments in wartime concentrate on the executive as the figure at the heart of vital decision making. While such a focus is valid, it has the effect of downplaying or overshadowing the legislative legacy that a war might leave. In this respect, Nancy Beck Young's book offers a useful study of the role of the United States Congress in World War II. For while Franklin Roosevelt may have made the decisions that led the United States to victory against the Japanese and Germans, Young demonstrates that Congress was passing laws that would decisively shape the country for decades to come.

Yet as Young demonstrates, this was not done in a vacuum. Overshadowing Congress's efforts was the still-fresh transformation that the New Deal had wrought in the country. Many conservatives sought to use the exigencies of war to roll back many of the New Deal programs. Here they were aided by the pent-up frustration many members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, felt towards what they viewed as the high-handed treatment of Congress by Roosevelt, and the desire to reassert some independence - an effort that was more viable in domestic policy than in matters related to the war. Young sees the moderates in Congress as the key to the success of these efforts, with liberals forced to curtail domestic reforms as the price for preserving the New Deal legacy.

Young recounts all of this in a text that draws upon a wealth of archival documentation, contemporary publications, and secondary-source literature to support her analysis. With it, she illuminates the personalities that often drove policy, showing how individual ideologies and attitudes could be critical to determining events. While deficient in its coverage of electoral politics during the war, it nonetheless makes for a valuable study of the wartime Congress, one that is useful reading both for students of the period and for anyone interested in American politics and the shape of our nation today.
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