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The Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

George McJimsey

April 2000
376 pages, 12 photographs, 6 x 9
American Presidency Series
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1012-9, $34.95 (t)

Chosen by the American Library Association's University Press Books Committee for the "Best of the Best from the University Presses" list, June 2001

Book Cover ImageElected in hard times and serving throughout a catastrophic global war, Franklin Delano Roosevelt confronted crises of epic proportions during his record twelve-year tenure as our nation's chief executive. George McJimsey now provides a fresh account of his much-debated presidency, describing the successes and failures of FDR's landmark administration and offering a new perspective on the New Deal.

A welcome synthesis of the best modern scholarship on the Roosevelt administration, McJimsey's study portrays Roosevelt as a pluralist leader whose various New Deal programs empowered the American people to combat America's Great Depression at the grass roots. During the depression, Roosevelt hoped to create a "cooperative commonwealth" that would create a strong America at home, as later during World War II he sought to create an international order based on allied cooperation and American leadership.

McJimsey pays particular attention to the political environment in which Roosevelt's presidency functioned and how it both created opportunities and limited his choices. Roosevelt, he shows, was often unable to avoid pluralism's pitfalls, as he found he had to work through corrupt city bosses, patronage-hungry congressmen, and profit-driven businessmen. As McJimsey observes, he was repeatedly forced to maneuver and manipulate to hold the reins of power.

A separate chapter on Eleanor Roosevelt describes her emergence as a public figure and her advocacy of social causes, exploring how she acted on issues that Franklin hesitated to address. In addition, the book expands on previous treatments of FDR by analyzing important policy issues involving and affecting women and Native Americans. It also sheds new light on the policy changes of 1935 and 1937, the roles of FDR's close associates, and the ultimate impact of his actions on democracy.

Concise and refreshingly balanced, The Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt portrays FDR as an unexpected proponent of decentralization, whose achievements were mixed: while the New Deal lifted the nation, its programs did as much to increase competition for special advantage as they did to encourage cooperation for the general welfare, and his wartime diplomacy ultimately failed to prevent the Cold War. The book contributes significantly to ongoing assessments of FDR's presidential record and renews our appreciation of his courage and vision.

"In this useful volume, McJimsey masters the prolific literature on America's only four-term President. McJimsey addresses FDR's energetic performance and, appropriately, includes a chapter on wife Eleanor's equally energetic--and even more empathetic--performance as America's greatest First Lady."--Library Journal

"A fresh and readable account of the most important presidency of the twentieth century, this book will interest general readers and scholars alike. McJimsey's incisive analysis of the social and economic policies of the FDR years helps us understand the relevance of the New Deal to our own time."--Patrick J. Maney, author of The Roosevelt Presence: The Life and Legacy of FDR

"McJimsey provides not only a highly readable synthesis of what has become a voluminous and complex literature, but also an insightful reinterpretation stressing the relationships between Roosevelt's governance and the evolution and implementation of an American pluralism. A welcome addition to a distinguished series."--Ellis W. Hawley, author of The Great War and the Search for a Modern Order

GEORGE McJIMSEY is professor and chair of the department of history at Iowa State University and the author of Harry Hopkins: Ally of the Poor and Defender of Democracy, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

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