HERBERT HOOVER by Glen Jeansonne


A Life
Age Range: 1874 - 1964
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Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) as a lifelong champion of true GOP ideals.

In a thorough, overly sympathetic biography, Jeansonne (Emeritus, History/Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) asserts that the Great Humanitarian got a bad rap serving as president during the outbreak of the Great Depression. The author of an earlier work on Hoover (The Life of Herbert Hoover, Fighting Quaker: 1928-1935, 2012), as well as other books on 20th-century history, Jeansonne finds that Hoover cultivated his “pure heart” as a small-town Iowa Quaker and orphan who grew up in the great outdoors, hence his love of nature and tendency to trust his own instincts. A well-regarded engineer after his Stanford education and married to a professional geologist, Hoover became hugely wealthy from Burma mining interests by age 40. With the onset of World War I, he dedicated his energies to helping feed the starving people of Belgium, among others, under President Woodrow Wilson, and later as commerce secretary under President Warren Harding and his successor, Calvin Coolidge. With his national following at the grass-roots level helping propel him into the White House in 1928, Hoover was a strong proponent of women’s suffrage, abided by Prohibition, and worked on disarming the country for a peaceful future. However, his first eight months of “whirlwind reform” were quickly overshadowed by such economic woes as farm relief—i.e., the vilified Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which the author concedes Hoover would have been “wiser” to have vetoed. Rather than anything Hoover did or could have done, argues Jeansonne, the stock market crash ultimately did him in. Indeed, Hoover created many measures Franklin Roosevelt would implement, such as large-scale public works. Despite Hoover’s “prophetic” words, he was largely blamed for the economic crash, and he spent much of the rest of his career excoriating the New Deal and advocating for keeping the U.S. out of World War II.

A hagiographic survey of an activist president agitating on the wrong side of history. A decent resource, but readers are encouraged to also consult Charles Rappleye’s Herbert Hoover in the White House (2016).

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-101-99100-8
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: New American Library
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2016


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