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Customer Review

13 April 2008
"The Coming of the New Deal" is the second in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s trilogy, "The Age of Roosevelt". Covering the period of 1933-1934, it is a worthy successor to its predecessor, "The Crisis of the Old Order" (see my Amazon review).

This volume is organized by the various challenges faced. Separate chapters are allotted to agriculture, industrial planning, public works, the labor movement and the coalescence of opposition to FDR. The book ends with an assessment or Roosevelt's leadership style.

I read this in preparation for a continuing ed class on the New Deal and found it to be very helpful.

The New Deal was immediately faced with impending crises, including the imminent collapse of the banking system and a real risk of social revolution. The controversial remedies chosen to combat these are covered in some detail. This book provides the reader with an understanding of many of the New Deal projects, including the NRA, the PWA, CCC and the agricultural plans, which included the destruction of piglets and the plowing up of crops in times of famine. His initiatives on soil conservation and conservation mirrored those of his role model, Theodore Roosevelt.

The opponents of FDR, Al Smith, Huey Long and Fr. Coughlin are presented in their goals, tactics and the effect they had on the New Deal and the country.

FDR's political efforts in the 1934 election are examined and assessed. For all his success in building a Democratic majority, he was less successful in building a liberal majority. I was surprised to find that FDR had one of the highest veto totals up to his time.

The personnel with whom he dealt with including the cabinet, Vice-President John Nance Garner and Joseph Kennedy provide interesting insights into other prominent characters of his era.

Analyses of FDR and his practices by Schlesinger and others, including Oliver Wendell Holmes give the reader a depth of perspective in judging the most loved and hated of American leaders.

"The Coming of The New Deal" provides the reader with an in depth study of a crucial two years in American history. It is clearly written by a liberal and, to some extent, the bias shows. Despite that, this book is not an unmitigated paean of Roosevelt and does, I believe, convey a reliable record of the times. It is must reading for any student of the New Deal Era.
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