FOR THE SURVIVAL OF DEMOCRACY: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s

Alonzo Hamby, Author . Free Press $30 (512p) ISBN 978-0-684-84340-7

It may be hard to believe that there's anything new to say about the place of FDR's New Deal in American and world history. But Hamby (Beyond the New Deal , etc.) does so in this sobering account of how well the U.S. managed its affairs during the Great Depression. What makes Hamby's approach fresh is his comparisons among the U.S. and the world's other great economic powers at the time, Great Britain and Germany. In the midst of an international whirlwind, each country went its own, nationalistic way. But as Hamby shows, their independent approaches to a universal crisis yielded benefits that go-it-alone policies now probably can't yield. In fact, while by 1940 both Britain and Germany had recovered from the Depression, the U.S. had not, despite FDR's huge efforts. The cost of recovery to Germany and the world of course was Nazism, war and genocide. Britain's integrity was better spared, and its social programs grew. But the U.S.? Hamby credits FDR with saving American democracy if not its economy, which was saved by the war. The president thus made possible the survival of free government elsewhere. The author's clarity and balance of judgment are marred somewhat with a cascade of facts. But his characterizations of people are always deft and occasionally surprising. He revives the reputation of Britain's Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and even has good things to say of the often reviled Neville Chamberlain. But at the center of this somewhat old-fashioned political and economic history is FDR's leadership. And that's what will draw readers to this solid, authoritative history. (Jan. 12)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-1-4165-6821-6
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