Woodrow Wilson

Overview

Progressive, visionary. Politician who aspired to be a poet. Believer in the triumph of good. American idealist abroad. The Woodrow Wilson of this major new biography embodies the French proverb that great qualities and defects are inseparably joined.


Internationally known Dutch historian J. W. Schulte Nordholt writes with deep understanding and empathy about America's twenty-eighth president (1913-1921), his administration, and his role in world affairs. This biography, as ...

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Overview

Progressive, visionary. Politician who aspired to be a poet. Believer in the triumph of good. American idealist abroad. The Woodrow Wilson of this major new biography embodies the French proverb that great qualities and defects are inseparably joined.


Internationally known Dutch historian J. W. Schulte Nordholt writes with deep understanding and empathy about America's twenty-eighth president (1913-1921), his administration, and his role in world affairs. This biography, as beautifully translated as it is written, restores the figure of Wilson as an incurable dreamer, a poetic idealist whose romantic world view enshrined organic, evolutionary progress.

Wilson's presidency occurred during some of the most brutal, divisive years of our century.
In a period of revolutionary social change and conflict, he steadfastly believed that ideas were stronger than facts. This was nowhere more evident than in his eleventh-hour attempts to find a diplomatic solution on the eve of the Great War. His unswerving belief in people's right to self-determination was, sadly, unrealistic in the postwar political framework of the League of Nations.

Schulte Nordholt's novel interpretation of Wilson's behavior challenges those who have blamed the president's childhood for his failures. The author reassesses those early years and focuses on Wilson's spirituality and devotion to the romantic poets, particularly Wordsworth. Wilson regretted that he could not be a poet himself and found an outlet for his literary impulses in oratory. But the gift of words, though it brought him fame and popularity, could not produce the better world he imagined.

If the story of Woodrow Wilson is a chapter in the history of idealism, the Wilson mode of statesmanship is a textbook of the difficulties America faced, and still faces, in the world of international politics. Should the United States be responsible for the order and peace of the whole world? Can this nation even understand the problems enough to attempt solutions? Wilson's life speaks eloquently of the unresolved American quest to be the world's guiding moral force.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This profound inquiry into the life of the 28th president reveals what kind of man he was, how he came by his exalted ideas and why he failed in the end. Dutch historian Schulte Nordholt focuses on the bitter wrangling at the Paris Peace Conference between Wilson and the other Allied leaders and on the clash between Wilson and the Senate over ratification of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Natons. Acknowledged as one of history's pivotal figures, Wilson is characterized as the embodiment of America's naive idealism, a ``brilliant mixture of vision and delusion.'' Schulte Nordholt argues that Wilson's belief in the reasonableness and goodness of humans--one element of the ``typically American complex of religion and nationalism'' which Wilson called ``faith''--contributed significantly to his failure as a statesman. An excellent scholarly work. Photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A Dutch historian here makes good use of the source materials and of both American and European scholarship in this thoughtful biography which depicts Wilson as an inflexible idealist, ``a nineteenth century man . . . in the disastrous twentieth century.'' He focuses first on the development of Wilson's political philosophy, then on Wilsonian policy through World War I and the peace negotiations. His study is aimed more at an academic audience than August Heckscher's more sympathetic Woodrow Wilson ( LJ 9/15/91), which gives greater attention to Wilson's personal life. Get Heckscher for the general reader; research collections will also need Schulte Nordholt.-- Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520074446
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1991
  • Pages: 524
  • Product dimensions: 1.31 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

J. W. Schulte Nordholt has taught and written extensively on American history. His books include a history of blacks in America and The Dutch Republic and American
Independence
(North Carolina 1982). Herbert H. Rowen, the translator of this work, is a well-known scholar and translator. He is Professor Emeritus of History, Rutgers University.

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