FDR was at the helm when the United States escaped from its greatest economic depression, and thus he earned an important place in history. His supporters, for the most part, are adamantly uncritical and tend to overlook lapses and mistakes he made, especially during his third and fourth terms, and the changes in FDR's acumen brought on by the burdens of office, ill health, and age, not to mention an innate self-confidence that developed into arrogance.
This book examines the personal and administrative qualities of FDR and from that perspective analyzes the U.S. response to the changing global scene between the two world wars. Governments during the period preceding and throughout World War II were not without defects, yet despite lapses and mistakes made by the U.S. Administration in Washington between 1939 and 1945, the accumulated errors did not equal either of two major ones committed by wartime enemies: 1) Hitler's judgment in invading the Soviet Union, and 2) Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor.
World War I had reduced most of Western Europe to rubble, and in the aftermath of that debacle extreme poverty, due in large part to the harshness of peace treaties, swept over the defeated nations. The hardships of those times made it inevitable that some governments would attempt recovery through authoritarian and military means. In the United States, conditions first flourished and then, after the stock market crashed in 1929, sank into a Great Depression. Stresses were very grave, but rather than resorting to arms American citizens yielded to reforms instituted through measures of the New Deal, the hallmark of Roosevelt's presidency.
Meanwhile, totalitarian leaders in Germany and Italy encouraged huge rearmaments programs and began encroaching upon neighboring governments. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and smaller nations were taken over by Nazis, thereby adding to a Reich which der Fuhrer (the leader) and his cohorts claimed would last a thousand years. Driven by that zeal, the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) in 1939 invaded Poland, and another World War was begun. Roosevelt and his interactions with Churchill, who was urgently seeking U.S. assistance -- while the American population wanted no part in another war -- make up a central theme of the current work.
The Rise and Fall of Franklin D. Roosevelt will appeal to readers who want to know more about the Great Depression, the New Deal, and events leading to World War II.
There are hundreds of histories of the Franklin Roosevelt period, but in the main they are mere recitals of events or profiles of characters who participated in them. Those works that offer any judgment tend to be laudatory or critical across the board. Few, if any, recognize the changes in FDR's acumen brought on by the burdens of office, ill health, and age, not to mention an innate self-confidence that developed into arrogance. But despite his obvious achievements, important errors can be traced to FDR that would have driven a lesser idol from office, as this book demonstrates.
The book is written in a narrative style that is engaging and easy to grasp for students as well as adults, yet the work has sufficient documentation to satisfy discriminating historians.
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About the Author
Underhill's Doctoral dissertation was entitled 'Public Addresses as Propaganda During the Cold War.' He has published numerous articles in professional journals and has been a frequent speaker before academic and civic groups. He has published twelve other books.