Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt

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Overview


New York State Assemblyman, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice President and, at forty-two, the youngest President ever—in his own words, Theodore Roosevelt “rose like a rocket.” He was also a cowboy, a soldier, a historian, an intrepid explorer, and an unsurpassed environmentalist. In Lion in the White House, historian Aida Donald masterfully chronicles the life of this first modern president.

TR’s accomplishments in office were immense. As President, ...

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Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt

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Overview


New York State Assemblyman, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice President and, at forty-two, the youngest President ever—in his own words, Theodore Roosevelt “rose like a rocket.” He was also a cowboy, a soldier, a historian, an intrepid explorer, and an unsurpassed environmentalist. In Lion in the White House, historian Aida Donald masterfully chronicles the life of this first modern president.

TR’s accomplishments in office were immense. As President, Roosevelt redesigned the office of Chief Executive and the workings of the Republican Party to meet the challenges of the new industrial economy. Believing that the emerging aristocracy of wealth represented a genuine threat to democracy, TR broke trusts to curb the rapacity of big business. He built the Panama Canal and engaged the country in world affairs, putting a temporary end to American isolationism. And he won the Nobel Peace Prize—the only sitting president ever so honored.

Throughout his public career, TR fought valiantly to steer the GOP back to its noblest ideals as embodied by Abraham Lincoln. Alas, his hopes for his party were quashed by the GOP’s strong rightward turn in the years after he left office. But his vision for America lives on.

In lapidary prose, this concise biography recounts the courageous life of one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever known.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this brisk biography, Donald, former editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, ascribes Teddy Roosevelt's popularity to his combination of charisma and substance; he was an "electrical, magnetic" speaker, according to one contemporary newspaper account, and he hit themes that resonated with ordinary folks, such as honesty in government and opportunity for all. In the White House, Roosevelt established a model of "positive, active governance" and insisted that the president was more powerful than any business tycoon. Donald pays particular attention to Roosevelt's pioneering conservancy efforts, and she suggests that one of his most important acts was to appoint Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. to the Supreme Court. Donald also touches on the personal: his grief when his first wife died, and his passionate love for his second wife, with whom he set a new standard for presidential domestic life, entertaining with a gusto unmatched until the Kennedys. The book is refreshingly slim, but sometimes-as in the brief discussion of Roosevelt's appointments of African-Americans to government jobs-one wishes for more. Indeed, there's not much here that readers won't find in other studies of Roosevelt, but Donald's swift prose makes this a satisfying read. Photos. History Book Club main selection.(Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Donald (former editor in chief, Harvard Univ. Press) here provides an accessible biography of Theodore Roosevelt (TR), who is receiving renewed attention during the centennial of his presidency (1901-09). America's last Renaissance president, TR led multiple lives: he was a rancher, soldier, historian, explorer, conservationist, hunter, and politician. Most scholars rank him at the top of the near-great presidents. Donald, who only briefly notes his faults, ranks him even higher. She not only shows how he propelled the United States from provincial status into a world power but also sheds light on how much he identified with his chief political hero, Abraham Lincoln. TR, who was given a ring by Lincoln's former private secretary to wear during his inauguration, often tried to define Lincoln as a progressive, a concept his Republican Party rejected. Ironically, it was TR's distant nephew Franklin who patterned his political life on TR to such a degree that Lincoln eventually morphed into a New Deal Democrat. Donald's account, although covering familiar territory, will appeal to a broad array of readers, both those already admiring the man and those new to him.
—William D. Pederson

Kirkus Reviews
A compact biography of the genuine cowboy president. Donald undertakes a daunting task: compressing the crowded life of Theodore Roosevelt into fewer than 300 pages, where any year-indeed, almost any episode (see Candice Millard's thrilling The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, 2005)-merits book-length treatment. Donald offers glimpses of Roosevelt in his many guises: the sickly youth, the Harvard swell, the cowboy rancher, the frontier deputy sheriff, the amateur scientist, the historian and author, the avid hunter and explorer, the conservationist, the Rough Rider, the devoted family man. She pays a bit more attention to his deeds in public office, from his early days as an Albany legislator, to his term as civil-service commissioner under Presidents Harrison and Cleveland, to his stint as police commissioner of New York City. She turns a larger spotlight on Roosevelt the assistant secretary of the navy, the New York governor, the McKinley vice president and, of course, the inventor of the modern presidency. Donald duly notes Roosevelt's magnificent public deeds-storming San Juan Hill, busting the trusts, launching the Great White Fleet, building the Panama Canal, waging the valiant Bull Moose campaign-and takes care also to mark his failures-his mishandling of the Brownsville, Texas, army affair and his failure to challenge the 1902 Chinese Exclusion Act. Indeed, no important aspect of the life goes unexplored, but the galloping pace leaves little time for the color this subject demands. Donald fares much better with her sensitive and informed discussion of Roosevelt's political philosophy. She ably demonstrates how his life shaped his public policy, how he actedwisely and moderately on a reformist agenda and how Lincoln's example informed his presidency, the high watermark of Republican progressivism. His increasingly "radical" positions-actually nothing more than an extension of his abiding belief in the efficacy of active government-finally alienated him from the Party he so briefly defined. Although readers seeking rich detail, a portrait in full, will continue to consult Edmund Morris's exquisite two-volume biography, Donald's work serves as a fair introduction to Roosevelt's life and a fine appreciation of his politics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465010240
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/3/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 684,865
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Aida D. Donald has spent a lifetime with American history. Editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press for many years, she also worked at publisher Hill and Wang, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Johns Hopkins University Press. A former Fulbright Fellow at Oxford University, Donald holds a Ph.D. in American history and has taught at Columbia University. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, with her husband and fellow historian David Herbert Donald.
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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 Born in a Cocoon 1

2 From Cocoon to the World 19

3 "I Rose Like a Rocket" 37

4 The Arc of Power 77

5 Man of the Hour 105

6 The Accidental President 131

7 A Mandate at Last 175

8 The Imperial Years 209

9 Too Much Fame 231

Acknowledgments 267

Index 271

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 24, 2008

    Worst Biography Ever Written

    If you really want to know about Theodore Roosevelt, you can find more information about him online at Wikopedcia. I wondered how a biography of 269 pages could adequately capture the life of Teddy Roosevelt. Now I know - it can't. The book ends by telling the reader that TR just got out of the hospital after a long illness. But, you, the reader, had no idea he was sick in the first place, and in any case never find out what he had and finally died from. This is typical of the entire book. I am ashamed of myself for having bought it. Had I purchased it directly from the author I would be howling for my money back. Lawrence Fox PhD

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2011

    NOT WORTH THE TIME - DO NOT BUY

    While I enjoy reading biographies on US presidents, this one had me closing and tossing in the trash a few pages into the introduction. Ms Donald's political advertisement that - "Roosevelt was the only progressive president in the history of the Republican Party. In fact, Roosevelt's presidency was one of the great forward, or progressive, eras in the nation's history as a whole...No Republican president since has embraced the idea or creating, through active government, the greatest good for the greatest number of people" and "his influence was short lived, as the organization quickly fell back onto its usual track of conservatism and small visions. Never since has the Republican Party put forward such imaginative and responsive domestic policy initiatives". I was hoping for an interesting and accurate read on TR, not political indoctrination. If I have to question her objectivity the book is not worth reading. Can anybody recommend a good bio on TR?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2013

    I would recommend this book.

    While it is not an "in depth" biography of T.R., it does a very good job of covering the high points of his life and his contributions. Too, it is eminently readable and not the dull tome some biographies become. We liked it.

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  • Posted July 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Good Beginning Biography of "Bully" Teddy!

    If you are looking for something comprehensive, and don't mind a 600, 700, 800 page read, then do go to the volumes written by David McCullough about Teddy Roosevelt's early years, or Pringle's Pulitzer Prize winning work, or even any of the Morris volumes.

    But for something a bit more simpler, an introduction if you like, this is one fine volume, written by the widow of acclaimed Lincoln Historian, the late David Donald. Aida Donald does not spare the criticism. For example she cites how Teddy, in a pique of anger over the breakup with his first love and future (second) wife, Edith, shot a poor dog. Never knew that, and must admit it has lessen my respect for the man. She also points out he was wishy-washy on the subject of Racism, boldly inviting Booker T. Washington to the White House, then in the face of criticism from the South never inviting him there after, though he did continue to accept advice from the great Afro-American leader. The book is very much like Pringle's - very critical, a warts and all work.

    But she also cites his Cowboy years, his Heroism on the Battlefield (surprisingly she did not take the tone of James Bradley or Evan Thomas in making TR out to be a bloodthirsty, war-loving jingoist), his superb accomplishments as President (we'd certainly be much better off with him in the White House now than the current, incompetent occupant), and the disappointments of his last years - including his losing confrontations with a Racist, Cowardly, Two-bit Nothing (like the current White House occupant) named Wilson.

    Maybe not what the Ph.D guy liked - or some of the others, but again, this is a warts-and-all introduction to a great American leader, and a book that hopefully if disappointing will encourage the reader to seek out the other words on TR's full life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 2, 2011

    Short, sympathetic, simple biography for the casual historian

    Roosevelt was a prolific writer. Historians tend to have ready access to quantities of documents. Also consider that he led an active life with a variety of interests, and acted to profoundly impact those interests. In short, biographies of TDR tend to be lengthy. This book is one of a short, or moderate length. The author lends a sympathetic portrayal of her subject, and the book is an easy, non-tedious read. If you're looking for a more probing exploration of the subject, look elsewhere.

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    school project

    I enjoy this book it¿s extremely detailed. The vocabulary is highly advanced and sometimes hard to understand. It has a very up beat tone always looking toward the future and things to come. You could call it optimistic. ¿He starts out with many health problems, during his teenage years he began to over come theses obstacles. He started working out and getting buff. His health problems were gone by the age of 21. His political career had many obstacles as well.¿ It is a biography. Theo is an jubilant well rounded person. He was the type of, grab the bull by the horns person. He loved the outdoors. He was a man¿s man in a man¿s world.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2009

    great for a school project

    this book peaks intrest and makes you think. its quite detailed and very provocative. i throughly enjoyed it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2008

    Some parts were hard to follow

    I was interested in this book before it came out and was thinking it would be a great read. I wasn't really satisfied. The book is a quick summary of T.R.'s life. In some parts, such as when he took on the business giants, I got lost in the reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2008

    Provocative Intro...

    Aida D. Donald's survey of T.R.'s time in the White House should be enough to make many readers dig deeper into the life of one of America's most illustrious presidents. She covers some of the most interesting and controversial actions or opinions in Roosevelt's life with a sentence or two. His intervention in Morocco, his stance against hyphenated Americans (German-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc.)the attempt against his life in 1912, all are left for the curious reader to pursue on their own time. Yet the author has produced an enjoyable primer on this American icon, an introduction worthy of the inquiring reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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