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Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, 1882-1940

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The first political biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Winner of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award. “A case study unmatched in american political writings” (Newsweek). Index; photographs.


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The first political biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Winner of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award. “A case study unmatched in american political writings” (Newsweek). Index; photographs.

30 review for Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, 1882-1940

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2016... Published in 1956, “Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox” is the first volume in James MacGregor Burns’s two- volume series on FDR. The second volume (“Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom“) won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize. Burns was a historian, biographer and professor at Williams College for nearly 40 years. He died in 2014 at the age of 95. One of the first in-depth biographies of Roosevelt, “The Lion and the Fox” covers FDR’s life through his election to a third p https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2016... Published in 1956, “Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox” is the first volume in James MacGregor Burns’s two- volume series on FDR. The second volume (“Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom“) won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize. Burns was a historian, biographer and professor at Williams College for nearly 40 years. He died in 2014 at the age of 95. One of the first in-depth biographies of Roosevelt, “The Lion and the Fox” covers FDR’s life through his election to a third presidential term. Ostensibly comprehensive in scope, Burns’s biography treats the various phases of Roosevelt’s life with uneven emphasis. Just one-fourth of the book’s 478 pages are allocated to the first 50+ years of FDR’s life; the first two terms of his presidency are the clear focus of this self-professed “political biography.” Unfortunately, lost in this emphasis on FDR’s political life, is any meaningful discussion of his personal life. Benito Mussolini seems to make as many appearances in the book as his wife, Eleanor, and I recall no mention of the breakdown in his marriage or the unique political partnership they eventually forged. Only slightly more effort is made to describe Roosevelt’s relationships with important political figures and advisers such as Winston Churchill and Louis Howe. Important initiatives such as Lend-Lease frequently come and go with the speed of a supersonic jet, hardly leaving any impression of their successes or failures. And important sites such as Warm Springs and Campobello are barely mentioned. Given the book’s emphasis on the first two terms of Roosevelt’s presidency one might expect an artful and engaging review of his First Hundred Days. But while each of the components of FDR’s frenetic New Deal program makes an appearance, the overall discussion is disorganized and comparatively incomprehensible relative to the treatments of reviews of this period of his first term. But for all its shortcomings, this book has much to offer the patient reader. Among early chapters, Burns’s discussion of FDR as New York’s governor is excellent: descriptive, analytical and engrossing. Several chapters later Burns offers one of the most detailed and insightful analyses of the Court Packing episode I’ve ever read. Somewhat past the book’s halfway point Burns devotes time to analyzing Roosevelt’s political skills and virtues for public office. This proves a fascinating review of the politician who was able to grow and adapt so adroitly. Later, Burns offers an engrossing review of the race for the 1940 Democratic presidential nomination. Here, for nearly the first time in the book, a group of characters come to life in a dynamic way. The biography concludes with an epilogue surveying FDR’s last two terms and considering his legacy (such as it existed in 1956). The summary of his last terms in office is far too brief to be of much advantage but the analysis of his mark on the executive branch is useful despite the lack of in-depth discussion of his years as a wartime president. Overall, James MacGregor Burns’s “Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox” is most notable for what it is not: an academic study of his early presidency, a character study or strictly a political biography. At various times it is each of these but never with complete success. Standing on its own, “The Lion and the Fox” falls short; whether a compelling conclusion to this series can make up for lost time remains to be seen… Overall rating: 3½ stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    TR Peterson

    This review is for both volumes of this biography The two volumes of James MacGregor Burns’ magisterial political biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt are unique in their intricate and nuanced understanding of FDR as a political operator. While other biographies may give one more of a feel for the man as a person or hone in on one aspect or another of his life, there is no better political analysis of FDR’s presidency and political career than that which Burns has written. In The Lion and the Fo This review is for both volumes of this biography The two volumes of James MacGregor Burns’ magisterial political biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt are unique in their intricate and nuanced understanding of FDR as a political operator. While other biographies may give one more of a feel for the man as a person or hone in on one aspect or another of his life, there is no better political analysis of FDR’s presidency and political career than that which Burns has written. In The Lion and the Fox Burns looks at FDR’s political life up to 1940. This includes a detailed account of the ins and outs of New Deal policy making and FDR’s political role in it. The title is taken from Machiavelli who notes the importance of having both cunning and decisiveness. Burns explores many examples of FDR’s mixture of both qualities and how these attributes came to be formed. Always with the political decisions of the president in mind, Burns details the development of FDR’s character from his earliest moments to eventual triumph in social and political spaces; starting with Groton, Harvard and on and up through the New York Governorship. Interspersed are welcome political cartoons and illustrations that bring the feeling of the varying time periods to life. Undoubtedly the best of the two volumes, The Soldier of Freedom looks at FDR’s war leadership and attempts to create an international organization where Wilson, with his doomed League of Nations, had failed. Describing FDR’s leadership at this time is no easy task but Burns handles it with an astute gift for insightful analysis. He does note how FDR must, of necessity, become more decisive than he had previously been comfortable with due to the pressures of international conflict. The at times intentional confusion and competition FDR set up among his subordinates during the New Deal years had to be jettisoned in order to manage the war successfully. Regardless, Burns shows how FDR managed to maintain his power and skill as a politician in the midst of international and national command. Reading both volumes of this political biography is an absolute necessity for any student of FDR and for that matter any student of US and international politics more generally. No book written before or since captures the political animal that Roosevelt was in the insightful way Burns has done – whether lion or fox.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clem

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt was arguably the greatest president of the United States during the twentieth century. I’m guessing that if most historians didn’t rank him as the best, they probably would have him listed in their top three. Sadly, after reading this book by James MacGregor Burns, you would have never known that. First, let me confess that there are a multitude of biographies out there on FDR. The only reason I chose to read this one, was because Amazon ran a “Kindle Special” on part 2 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was arguably the greatest president of the United States during the twentieth century. I’m guessing that if most historians didn’t rank him as the best, they probably would have him listed in their top three. Sadly, after reading this book by James MacGregor Burns, you would have never known that. First, let me confess that there are a multitude of biographies out there on FDR. The only reason I chose to read this one, was because Amazon ran a “Kindle Special” on part 2 of this two part book series for a very cheap price. I figured that, before I read volume 2, I’ll first read volume 1. I now wish that I had not. This book was incredibly drab and dull. I couldn’t believe how lifeless this piece of work was. Reading this book reminded me of one of those hour long lectures that you sat through in college with a particularly bad professor. You would walk into class, telling yourself that you WILL pay attention to the day’s lecture this time, yet you find yourself nodding off five minutes into the day’s oration. This book does tell you what the man did up until 1940. I just feel as though I never knew the man. I never learned what made him tick. Why was he so popular? What were his fears? His joys? His relationship with Eleanor and his children? His polio infliction? None of this is answered. Instead, the author plods directly into his accomplishments. First at school, then as he enters his life into politics. Why FDR went into politics, I have no idea. Maybe the book does tell you, but I honestly have no recollection. The fact that his distant cousin Theodore was very successful may have had something to do with it. In 1920, Roosevelt was actually chosen by presidential candidate James Cox to be his Vice-Presidential running mate. Vice President!? Pretty exciting stuff. Yet to hear Burns tell the story, you feel about as excited as reading about someone picking out what pair of socks they want to wear during the day. So time goes on, a depression hits, Roosevelt runs for President in 1932, he wins on something called “The New Deal”. Ah….The New Deal. It seems as though 80% of this book is about the New Deal. Mainly that Roosevelt wanted it, many of his opponents did not. This goes back and forth and back and forth. In detail. In way too much detail. Fortunately, Roosevelt become likable. The country never actually gets back on track (it would not until World War II), but the country makes enough progress to where most love him. His big fiasco while in office was to try to change the way the Supreme Court was run, and “pack” the court with “New Dealers”. It does backfire in his face. What is (slightly) more interesting is when the worldly affairs are discussed. There’s a tinderbox in Europe, and soon a major war is started. Our country wants nothing of this European war, and even through you feel that deep down Roosevelt knows we should be involved, he can’t resist public upheaval. So he keeps us out as best he can. Well, even though this book “ends” in 1940 (the second volume details the war years), the author feels it necessary to write an afterward that does tell what happens from 1940-1945. It’s like he’s giving us the Cliffs Notes version of his second book. Why the author does this, I don’t know. Perhaps he didn’t know at the time he’d be writing a volume 2? It seems a bit of a shabby way, whatever the reason, to end this book in this fashion. There are plenty of other gripes I had with this book as well. This author seems to take for granted that his readers already know many of the minor characters that he introduces, so there is often no background whenever someone of importance appears on the pages. I found myself having to constantly turn to Wikipedia to find out who the author was talking about. In many cases, he doesn’t even give us a first name of the individual. I am somewhat familiar with President Woodrow Wilson (the U.S. President during World War I), yet when the author referred to him at one point as “now being an invalid”, I had to, again, do my own research to figure out what the author was referring to in the passage (my research led me to discover that President Wilson had a stroke in 1919 that left him severely incapacitated. Why the author doesn’t briefly share this, I have no idea). I did not realize this when I bought the book, but this biography was written over 50 years ago (1956). Not that this should really matter, as Roosevelt died in 1945, but I can’t help but wonder if the “style” of writing is just a tad too archaic for modern readers such as myself. I felt a similar wave of disappointment when I read Ted Sorenson’s “Kennedy”, which is also about half a century old. I think modern audiences want a bit more flair and excitement since our attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Whether or not that’s a “good thing” for us doesn’t change the fact that it definitely hindered my experience. Speaking of styles in writing, the subtitle of this book is “The Lion and the Fox”, but I confess, again, that I really didn’t know that the author was using both of these words to describe Roosevelt himself. Yes, you can kind of figure that out after several hundred pages, but it just seemed peculiar that comparisons between the 32nd president and these two animals was never really emphasized at all. One more gripe: The book also contains illustrations and several political cartoons scattered throughout the pages, yet the transition to the Kindle format doesn’t work that well. The illustrations are almost impossible to see, and you can’t magnify them with your Kindle either. To be honest, though, I simply didn’t really care. I would recommend trying a different retrospective of FDR. To be fair, though, there were several readers that rated this book highly on Amazon. Perhaps I’m just grumpy today….

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    A solid book - although somewhat dated at this point in time. Nonetheless, it focuses specifically on Roosevelt's personality and how that affected his leadership skills - both positively and negatively. A solid book - although somewhat dated at this point in time. Nonetheless, it focuses specifically on Roosevelt's personality and how that affected his leadership skills - both positively and negatively.

  5. 4 out of 5

    MJ

    FDR from birth to just before the U.S. entry into WW11. Excellent.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mer

    I usually don't go in for biographies, but I couldn't put this one down. I really enjoyed it. I usually don't go in for biographies, but I couldn't put this one down. I really enjoyed it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ken Lawrence

    First biography I've read about one of our most influential and transformational Presidents. Truly a man who shaped our nation during tumultuous times. Good read. First biography I've read about one of our most influential and transformational Presidents. Truly a man who shaped our nation during tumultuous times. Good read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    I liked this biography of the public Franklin Roosevelt very much. It is full of minutia but that did not bog it down. Rather it made quite clear the complexity and character of the man. Burns writes beautifully!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Biopoic of the political career of FDR. Interesting for the insight about how he managed his political rise, but too sparse on his non-political life, and the impact to him as a leader.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan Russell

    The Lion and the Fox Too long and not enough information on WWll. I wanted more information regarding events leading up to Pearl Harbor attack,

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charles Rackley

    Great book. This is a really great book that gives insight into the person and times of FDR. I enjoyed the book, and I highly recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bill Evans

    Vol 1 of two volume political bio of FDR. Narrative flows very well. Very informative and an easy read. Will definitely read the second volume soon.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    A great read if you are interested in President Roosevelt . No doubt that he was our greatest president after reading this book. No doubt that he was our greatest president after this great read. His personality came through in this book. His personality made him a great leader.

  14. 5 out of 5

    WW2 Reads

    This review is for both volumes of this biography The two volumes of James MacGregor Burns’ magisterial political biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt are unique in their intricate and nuanced understanding of FDR as a political operator. While other biographies may give one more of a feel for the man as a person or hone in on one aspect or another of his life, there is no better political analysis of FDR’s presidency and political career than that which Burns has written. In The Lion and the Fo This review is for both volumes of this biography The two volumes of James MacGregor Burns’ magisterial political biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt are unique in their intricate and nuanced understanding of FDR as a political operator. While other biographies may give one more of a feel for the man as a person or hone in on one aspect or another of his life, there is no better political analysis of FDR’s presidency and political career than that which Burns has written. In The Lion and the Fox Burns looks at FDR’s political life up to 1940. This includes a detailed account of the ins and outs of New Deal policy making and FDR’s political role in it. The title is taken from Machiavelli who notes the importance of having both cunning and decisiveness. Burns explores many examples of FDR’s mixture of both qualities and how these attributes came to be formed. Always with the political decisions of the president in mind, Burns details the development of FDR’s character from his earliest moments to eventual triumph in social and political spaces; starting with Groton, Harvard and on and up through the New York Governorship. Interspersed are welcome political cartoons and illustrations that bring the feeling of the varying time periods to life. Undoubtedly the best of the two volumes, The Soldier of Freedom looks at FDR’s war leadership and attempts to create an international organization where Wilson, with his doomed League of Nations, had failed. Describing FDR’s leadership at this time is no easy task but Burns handles it with an astute gift for insightful analysis. He does note how FDR must, of necessity, become more decisive than he had previously been comfortable with due to the pressures of international conflict. The at times intentional confusion and competition FDR set up among his subordinates during the New Deal years had to be jettisoned in order to manage the war successfully. Regardless, Burns shows how FDR managed to maintain his power and skill as a politician in the midst of international and national command. Reading both volumes of this political biography is an absolute necessity for any student of FDR and for that matter any student of US and international politics more generally. No book written before or since captures the political animal that Roosevelt was in the insightful way Burns has done – whether lion or fox.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karl Schaeffer

    Got this one on the kindle from BookBub. 1 of 2 books by on FDR by J. Burns. An excellent read. This book chronicles FDR's life from birth to the start of WWII. The followup volume covers the war years until FDR's death. The author asks the question: what characteristics both internal and external made FDR do what he did at that time in our nation's history? Thru the lens of time, FDR is generally considered a statesman and one of the top ranked presidents to serve our country. No fawning worshi Got this one on the kindle from BookBub. 1 of 2 books by on FDR by J. Burns. An excellent read. This book chronicles FDR's life from birth to the start of WWII. The followup volume covers the war years until FDR's death. The author asks the question: what characteristics both internal and external made FDR do what he did at that time in our nation's history? Thru the lens of time, FDR is generally considered a statesman and one of the top ranked presidents to serve our country. No fawning worship by the author, Burns chides Roosevelt for using his personal charm and persuasiveness to build the coalition that powered the country thru the depression and into WWII against fascisim, instead of building the institutions of the congress and national democratic party. Burns notes that FDR didn't really have a plan to get the country out of the depression, but talked to a wide panoply of people and picked ideas to implement that made sense to him. Not stuck with a dogma, FDR was willing to change course and try a different approach. Burns is not so much critical of Roosevelt's attempt to stack the Supreme Court as his subsequent reluctance to throw in the towel after the public outcry. FDR sprung this idea on the nation without vetting by even his closest advisers, let alone congressional leaders. Even the public, was against the idea. Of course, FDR's defense was that the Court was blocking the programs that FDR felt were needed to bring the country out of the depression. Opponents often claim that the only thing that kept the USA out of a second depression in the late 30's was the advent of WWII. However, I will leave that subject to the alternate history buffs to imagine a world either without the Nazi's or without the USA entering WWII. Reading this book solidifies my view that government can do good, and is needed for policy guidance and keeping markets and corporations in check for the benefit of the general populace; something I find greatly lacking in this day and age.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    Was it destiny that led me to complete this book on the day before the 2010 midterm elections? Okay, maybe not destiny, but it was fortuitous. I was so sick of flippant references to the "Great Depression" by certain currently serving politicians that I determined to refresh my knowledge by reading "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression" by Amity Shlaes and this book, "Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox." In this 538 page political biography of FDR published in 1956, James MacGre Was it destiny that led me to complete this book on the day before the 2010 midterm elections? Okay, maybe not destiny, but it was fortuitous. I was so sick of flippant references to the "Great Depression" by certain currently serving politicians that I determined to refresh my knowledge by reading "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression" by Amity Shlaes and this book, "Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox." In this 538 page political biography of FDR published in 1956, James MacGregor Burns does a good job of getting the basics down on paper with a minimum amount of pro-FDR fluff. It's a nice mix of fact and commentary on the personal, the political, and world and national events from FDR's birth in 1882 through his election to a third term in November 1940. For those who don't know the details of Hitler's rise, cross-border aggression, and the tepid response of America to the attacks on France and Britain, FDR's isolationist policies (until 7 December 1941) will shock your 21st century "preemptive strike" conscience.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Janet Eshenroder

    I always read at least one highly regarded American historical book a year, if for no other reason that the history taught in school and through “common knowledge” gives a simplified and often inaccurate review of historical figures. I’ve read other books on FDR but this author gave the most compelling insight not only on the making of an important American president but in the political process itself: how having a candidate work and grow through the political system teaches one how to balance I always read at least one highly regarded American historical book a year, if for no other reason that the history taught in school and through “common knowledge” gives a simplified and often inaccurate review of historical figures. I’ve read other books on FDR but this author gave the most compelling insight not only on the making of an important American president but in the political process itself: how having a candidate work and grow through the political system teaches one how to balance the running of a country that always has interest groups pitted against each other. as well as how Roosevelt’s basic nature and experience gave him an edge. This is one of those books I highly recommend for anyone who wonders about how our democracy was meant to work and the reality of what hides behind the curtain of public awareness.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gmaharriet

    This is book 1 of a 2-part biography, a very through biography of Roosevelt's life during his young and peacetime life. The second book will be about the WWII years, and I'm looking forward to that. This seems to have been well-researched, but I confess to being somewhat bored in parts. I usually enjoy biographies, so that surprised me, and I suppose I must attribute it to the author's style. Roosevelt's life was certainly eventful enough that it should have had a bit more excitement to it. I'd r This is book 1 of a 2-part biography, a very through biography of Roosevelt's life during his young and peacetime life. The second book will be about the WWII years, and I'm looking forward to that. This seems to have been well-researched, but I confess to being somewhat bored in parts. I usually enjoy biographies, so that surprised me, and I suppose I must attribute it to the author's style. Roosevelt's life was certainly eventful enough that it should have had a bit more excitement to it. I'd recommend it if a person wants to know about what led him to run for a third and then a fourth term as U.S. President and how he managed to get our isolationist country to accept our helping Great Britain prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    * Top 10 Greatest Leaders of All Time The Leader: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox and Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, by James MacGregor’s Burns The longest-serving U.S. president, FDR not only led Americans through the Great Depression, he gave them hope. Though today’s economy doesn’t exactly mirror that during FDR’s term, there is something we can take away: There’s strength in numbers. Paralyzed from the waist down, he relied on the help of others to get his word o * Top 10 Greatest Leaders of All Time The Leader: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox and Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, by James MacGregor’s Burns The longest-serving U.S. president, FDR not only led Americans through the Great Depression, he gave them hope. Though today’s economy doesn’t exactly mirror that during FDR’s term, there is something we can take away: There’s strength in numbers. Paralyzed from the waist down, he relied on the help of others to get his word out. Learn more about FDR’s unprecedented run in James MacGregor Burns’s two-volume biography.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Excellent political biography. Although I can't know if it was the author s intent, the parallels are striking between FDR and his first two terms and Obama and his administration eighty years later. Unlike President Obama, Roosevelt emerges as neither an intellectual nor an idealist but is essentially a pragmatist who is a master at engaging individuals and groups who are critical in accomplishing a specific end; he is a gleeful and unapologetic horse-trader. I'm looking forward to the second v Excellent political biography. Although I can't know if it was the author s intent, the parallels are striking between FDR and his first two terms and Obama and his administration eighty years later. Unlike President Obama, Roosevelt emerges as neither an intellectual nor an idealist but is essentially a pragmatist who is a master at engaging individuals and groups who are critical in accomplishing a specific end; he is a gleeful and unapologetic horse-trader. I'm looking forward to the second volume.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Edwing

    EXCELENTE LIBRO... EL QUE ES PARA MI EL MEJOR PRESIDENTE QUE HA TENIDO LOS EEUU, QUE JAMAS PERMITIÓ QUE WALL STREET LO MANEJARA, NI EL APARATO MILITAR, UN PRESIDENTE QUE SE OCUPO DEL PUEBLO ESTADOUNIDENSE, DE LAS MEJORAS SOCIALES, QUE FUE SU COMANDANTE EN JEFE EN LA GUERRA MUNDIAL, Y QUE LE REGALO AL MUNDO UNA ORGANIZACIÓN DE NACIONES UNIDAS QUE LAMENTABLEMENTE LO DEFRAUDARÍA.... UN HOMBRE DE PAZ, DE DESICIÓN Y QUE QUERÍA QUE UN MUNDO LIBRE Y DEMOCRÁTICO VIVIERA EN PAZ¡¡

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deb Salamon

    I'd have liked to give this 3.5 stars. For me it spent too much time detailing his election contenders. I'd have preferred a summary vs pages of names/details that I wasn't as interested in. For many I'm sure that won't be a downside. When the book discusses his policy and how he dealt with events it was at its best. I'd have liked to give this 3.5 stars. For me it spent too much time detailing his election contenders. I'd have preferred a summary vs pages of names/details that I wasn't as interested in. For many I'm sure that won't be a downside. When the book discusses his policy and how he dealt with events it was at its best.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    he's got a total crush on Roosevelt, but it's forgivable. still, history should be more objective than this. he's got a total crush on Roosevelt, but it's forgivable. still, history should be more objective than this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lila

    The book was good; hated the class. Thanks Diana.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Bails

    Read for an American History college class in the 1960's. Read for an American History college class in the 1960's.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Lesieur

  27. 5 out of 5

    Todd

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Phipps

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Harless

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob

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