Having read the late James Macgregor Burns’ award winning two volume set on FDR (The Lion and the Fox and The Soldier of Freedom) and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize winning No Ordinary Time, I wondered what I would find in Roger Daniels’ first volume of a two-volume set on FDR, Franklin D Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939 (University of Illinois Press, 2015). What I found was an interesting and insightful study of FDR based on Daniels’ goal of making “Roosevelt’s verbal messages to the American people and the world an organizing principle.”
Ignoring most of FDR’s personal life from birth to the end of 1939, Daniel’s provides an interesting and scholarly study of what FDR said which to me provides a deeper level of study of our the longest serving American President and his administration. It is also an eminent historian (Daniels is the Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cincinnati) working with not just the words of FDR but also the various interpretations of FDR and his administration and making scholarly assessments of both the man and his administration.
I found Daniels’ first volume to be detailed without being tedious and helpful in understanding the victories and setbacks of FDR’s administration as well as FDR himself; the New Deal program, his leadership style that often had multiple sources reporting to him; his resoluteness in the face of polio and his work to eliminate the disease. Daniels’ portrait of FDR is sympathetic but also objective and the book is a well researched and documented study.
I liked this book not just for the subject itself, FDR, but also for the way it was written, scholarly, enlightening, engaging and helpful. In other words, a well written biography and assessment of one the United States’ top three Presidents.
I rate this book an ‘outstanding’ read.
Note: I received a galley copy of this book from Net Galley, via the publisher, in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.