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Presidential Leadership: From Woodrow Wilson to Harry S. Truman

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Overview

Ever since the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, scholars have been in a quandary over how much they really know about our country’s presidents. Nixon, as is now understood, was unstable in personality. The signs appeared well before the discovery of the infamous Watergate tapes, an appalling example of what the presidency could come to. Many Americans have difficulty penetrating the public persona of their leaders. But to know the private side of such figures—the cores of their being—is important, because this side often governs what they do publicly.

In Presidential Leadership, Robert H. Ferrell examines four sometimes maligned, sometimes misunderstood presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry S. Truman. Along with these portraits, Ferrell incorporates comments on Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as key figures in each president’s administration. Also included in this volume is historian John A. Garraty’s interview with Ferrell on American foreign policy from 1919 to 1945.

As is his style, Ferrell draws from many sources previously untapped. In the case of Wilson, Ferrell relies on the diary of Colonel Edward M. House, who served under Wilson during his presidency. Ferrell uses White House physician Joel T. Boone’s diary to provide an insider’s look at Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. In dealing with these presidents, Ferrell debunks long-held myths and approaches the presidencies with fresh insights into what drove them to make the decisions they made.

Throughout the book, Ferrell emphasizes the personal styles of each president. He not only shows how they made their own determinations but also evaluates those whom they appointed to important positions. Scholars of American history will welcome this insightful look at the men who saw the United States through the first half of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Presidential Leadership provides a sure-footed guide through the thickets of administrations from Wilson’s to that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. . . . [It] provides us with the insights of a veteran scholar who has little patience with those interpretations that have become ‘standard’ through repetition rather than because of intellectual merit. An added bonus is that it is a pleasure to read.”—Robert Maddox, author of Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision 

“These essays demonstrate very well the Ferrell technique, the ability to get inside the personality of key historical figures, to bring the event and the person to life with deft quotation and illuminating anecdote, and to tell stories with a beginning, middle, and end.”—J. Garry Clifford, author of The Citizen Soldiers: The Plattsburg Training Camp Movement, 1913–1920

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826216236
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Edition description: bibliography, index, 8 illustrations
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert H. Ferrell is Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University in Bloomington. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Five Days in October: The Lost Battalion of World War I, Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division, and Meuse-Argonne Diary: A Divison Commander in World War I, all available from the University of Missouri Press. Ferrell resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Table of Contents

1 Who are these people? 1
2 Woodrow Wilson : a misfit in office 8
3 Warren G. Harding's reputation 25
4 Calvin Coolidge, the man and the president 64
5 The United States in world affairs : 1919-1945 80
6 Harry S. Truman : a chance president in the new world of superpowers 117
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