Cover image for Roosevelt and the Munich crisis : a study of political decision-making
Roosevelt and the Munich crisis : a study of political decision-making
Farnham, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1997]

Physical Description:
xi, 313 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E183.8.G3 F37 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Franklin Roosevelt's intentions during the three years between Munich and Pearl Harbor have been a source of controversy among historians for decades. Barbara Farnham offers both a theory of how the domestic political context affects foreign policy decisions in general and a fresh interpretation of FDR's post-Munich policies based on the insights that the theory provides. Between 1936 and 1938, Roosevelt searched for ways to influence the deteriorating international situation. When Hitler's behavior during the Munich crisis showed him to be incorrigibly aggressive, FDR settled on aiding the democracies, a course to which he adhered until America's entry into the war. This policy attracted him because it allowed him to deal with a serious problem: the conflict between the need to stop Hitler and the domestic imperative to avoid any risk of American involvement in a war.

Because existing theoretical approaches to value conflict ignore the influence of political factors on decision-making, they offer little help in explaining Roosevelt's behavior. As an alternative, this book develops a political approach to decision-making which focuses on the impact that awareness of the imperatives of the political context can have on decision-making processes and, through them, policy outcomes. It suggests that in the face of a clash of central values decision-makers who are aware of the demands of the political context are likely to be reluctant to make trade-offs, seeking instead a solution that gives some measure of satisfaction to all the values implicated in the decision.

Author Notes

Barbara Rearden Farnham is Senior Associate at the Institute of War and Peace Studies.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In a thoroughly researched and carefully crafted study, Farnham (Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia Univ.) offers an invaluable analysis of Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign policy from 1936 to 1939. Combining narrative history with political theory, especially in the form known as "decision-making," Farnham challenges claims that Roosevelt was a drifting political opportunist (see James MacGregor Burns's The Lion and the Fox, 1956) or an isolationist himself (see Arnold Offner's American Appeasement, CH, Oct'69). For several years before the Munich Conference of September 1938, the president--far from being intimidated by isolationists--sought to restrain aggressor nations by such options as mutual disarmament, an economic boycott, and economic blockade. At the outset of the Munich crisis, FDR suggested that the Allies contain Germany by means of a defensive blockade. Though at first relieved when the immediate emergency ended, Roosevelt foresaw further Nazi aggression in Europe and a military threat to the Western Hemisphere. His solution was to aid the democracies, particularly with air power, in the hope of stopping Hitler without the US itself going to war. Sources include British and American manuscript collections, public documents, official histories, and scholarly books, articles, and unpublished papers. Farnham makes extensive use of works in political theory, but her writing style is clearer in the narrative portions of her study. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. D. Doenecke University of South Florida