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Herbert Hoover (2009)

de William E. Leuchtenburg

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Renowned New Deal historian Leuchtenburg offers a frank, thoughtful portrait of the lifelong public servant, and shrewdly assesses Hoover's policies and legacy in the face of one of the darkest periods of American history--the Great Depression.
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When looking for books on Hoover, there were two that were the most popular and got the best ratings. This one, and one that had some 500 pages. Since I've been reading quite a bit about this time period, and since Hoover only served a term, I figured I could read the shorter book, and come out with the information I wanted to read. However, this book only piqued my interest even more. Probably one of the least understood, and unfairly judged Presidents in our history. This guy went from greedy Capitalist, to great humanitarian (WWI and Mississippi floods of 1927), then once president, became staunchly rigid in his Conservative political/economic views. Anyway, about the book, it was well-written and had a decent bibliography but I ended up wanting more depth and detail. All in all though, a good read about an interesting man. ( )
  btbell_lt | Aug 1, 2022 |
This biography was a less than a compelling read. The author, I think, in trying to be even handed, basically wrote a book in which the reader is hoping against hope that the man would die sooner rather than later, just to spare them more of his fatuous arguments against helping the starving in the US while rushing aid after WWII to Europe and Russia.

I thought it was interesting to note that only three times or so was Hoover's Quakerism alluded to, and never was it seen to be (or not) behind his rationales.

Boring, with some factual data. ( )
  kaulsu | Oct 24, 2014 |
This brief biography is part of the American President’s series and in my opinion, Herbert Hoover is a good subject for the series. Whereas Presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln and Roosevelt (both) are not particularly well suited for treatment in a 200 page book, I would probably not be interested in investing the time required to peruse a 500+ page book on the life of Herbert Hoover.

Nevertheless, the life history of Herbert Hoover is certainly interesting and instructional. A very successful businessman, administrator and bureaucrat, Hoover is widely blamed for the Great Depression and for failing to take the necessary actions to address the mounting crisis. Of course, this is certainly a simplistic argument, as Franklin Roosevelt, despite taking radical action, made only modest headway in economic recovery through the first eight years of his reign. Only the outbreak of World War II did the trick. Had Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1931 instead of 1941, perhaps Herbert Hoover would have been elevated to the pantheon of U. S. Presidents. As it is however, Hoover joins Buchanan among the ranks of failed Presidents whose successors (Lincoln in the case of Buchanan) are deemed to have cleaned up the messes they left behind.

Great Presidents are molded and elevated by the challenges they are forced to meet. Certainly, confronted by the Great Depression, Hoover had an historical opportunity, though perhaps an impossible task. Nevertheless, the autocratic skills that served him so well in his relief efforts in Belgium, the Soviet Union and the Mississippi Valley after the Great Flood of 1927 were ill suited to address the mounting economic ills of the Great Depression.

From a personal standpoint, Leuchtenburg paints Hoover to be a pretty miserable human being. A rapacious businessman, Hoover performed most effectively in the role of an absolute dictator; perhaps the best model for some of his pre-war business ventures and WWI relief and humanitarian roles, but not the ideal personality for a politician in our “checks and balances” republic. Not surprisingly, his management style did not mesh well with Congressional leaders or members of his own Cabinet. At a time when such cooperation was vital, Hoover was ill suited for the task. A wooden and colorless personality made it difficult to connect to the American public, especially when delivering the kind of message no one wanted to hear (pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!).

A worthwhile, brief primer on a much maligned (perhaps deservedly) American figure. ( )
  santhony | Mar 30, 2009 |
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"Writing about Herbert Hoover is like trying to describe the interior of a citadel where every drawbridge is up and every portcullis down."
 
      -- George Creel
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The Great Engineer
Little wonder that David Copperfield was Herbert Hoover's favorite tale.
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Renowned New Deal historian Leuchtenburg offers a frank, thoughtful portrait of the lifelong public servant, and shrewdly assesses Hoover's policies and legacy in the face of one of the darkest periods of American history--the Great Depression.

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