A carefully focused and researched analysis that adds considerably to the historical record.



Franklin Roosevelt’s tortured decision to run for an unprecedented third term, analyzed in terms of the president’s complicated personality and strategies.

A senior staffer in the Carter administration and longtime head of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (1993–2010), Moe (Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl, 1997, etc.) takes a different approach from the numerous other recent works dealing with the lead-up to the U.S. election of 1940 and war in Europe—e.g., Lynne Olson's Those Angry Days and Michael Fullilove's Rendezvous with Destiny. Moe aims to get inside FDR's head and delineate the president's decision-making process step by step. From “shifting gears” from trying to jump-start the crippled economy in his first term to focusing on German aggression and bolstering England in his second, Roosevelt never let himself be pinned down. He made Sphinx-like pronouncements regarding his post–White House plans as the 1940 Democratic Convention approached; relations with Vice President John Nance Garner had soured, and it seemed he might anoint a successor in either Harry Hopkins or Cordell Hull, both valued subordinates. Yet letters poured in urging FDR to run, political gadflies prodded him, and the increasingly dire international situation cried out for continuity in leadership as France fell and the British were left to stand alone against Germany’s onslaught. In the face of Wendell Willkie’s GOP candidacy, Roosevelt came to accept that no other Democrat could keep the White House, and no other leader could stand up to Hitler as effectively. The secretive president kept his own counsel outside a circle of trusted advisers, however, intensely aware of the tradition that limited a president to two terms. He wanted “the call” to come from “the people through the American method of a free election,” and once he made up his mind to ask for another term, their response was decisive.

A carefully focused and researched analysis that adds considerably to the historical record.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-998191-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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