Cover image for Franklin Delano Roosevelt : champion of freedom
Franklin Delano Roosevelt : champion of freedom
Black, Conrad.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Public Affairs, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 1280 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E807 .B58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands astride American history like a colossus, having pulled the nation out of the Great Depression and led it to victory in the Second World War. Elected to four terms as president, he transformed an inward-looking country into the greatest superpower the world had ever known. Only Abraham Lincoln did more to save America from destruction. But FDR is such a large figure that historians tend to take him as part of the landscape, focusing on smaller aspects of his achievements or carping about where he ought to have done things differently. Few have tried to assess the totality of FDR's life and career.

Conrad Black rises to the challenge. In this magisterial biography, Black makes the case that FDR was the most important person of the twentieth century, transforming his nation and the world through his unparalleled skill as a domestic politician, war leader, strategist, and global visionary--all of which he accomplished despite a physical infirmity that could easily have ended his public life at age thirty-nine. Black also takes on the great critics of FDR, especially those who accuse him of betraying the West at Yalta. Black opens a new chapter in our understanding of this great man, whose example is even more inspiring as a new generation embarks on its own rendezvous with destiny.

Author Notes

Conrad Black is a graduate of Carleton, Laval, and McGill Universities in history and law. His articles and reviews on various subjects have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the National Interest, and the American Spectator, as well as many British and Canadian publications. Conrad Black is the chairman of Hollinger International Inc. and of the London Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and, with associates, is the controlling shareholder of those newspapers and the Spectator (UK), the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, and many other publications. He has been a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour since 2001

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Black is the CEO of newspaper publishing giant Hollinger International, Inc. He has written a massive, comprehensive, but frequently ponderous biography of the great FDR. Unfortunately, Black spends an inordinate amount of time describing Roosevelt's personal life, often in mind-numbing detail. Does the fact that a young Franklin tried to conceal an accidental gash to his forehead really help to understand the man? Yet this work has great value, particularly when it focuses upon Roosevelt as president and indomitable wartime leader. In Black's view, Roosevelt, like Churchill, understood that the war was more than a mere struggle between nation states. He believed passionately, and correctly, that it was a struggle to preserve the ideals of liberty and democracy that had been nurtured and developed over centuries. It was that belief that sustained Roosevelt, and it was his skill and courage as a leader that allowed him to bring his people to that realization. Despite its flaws, Black's chronicle of a man of strength and vision is a worthy tribute to his legacy. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Flying over the Nile near Cairo in October 1943, President Roosevelt looked down and quipped, "Ah, my friend the Sphinx." Sometimes portrayed that way by cartoonists in his time, he is utterly unsphinxlike in Lord Black's new biography. Massive and moving, barbed yet balanced, it is scrupulously objective and coldly unsparing of agenda-ridden earlier biographers and historians. It leaps to the head of the class of Rooseveltian lives and will be difficult to supersede. To Black, the Canadian-born media mogul (he owns the London Daily Telegraph and the Chicago Sun-Times, among other papers worldwide), the second Roosevelt was, apart from Lincoln perhaps as savior of the Union, the greatest American president, and with no exceptions the greatest of its politicians. No FDR-haters have exposed, credibly, more of Roosevelt's "less admirable tendencies," from "naked opportunism," "deformed idealism" and "pious trumpery" to "insatiable vindictiveness." Yet the four-term president emerges in Black's compelling life as personifying vividly the civilization he, more than any other contemporary, rescued from demoralizing economic depression and devastating world war. His larger-than-life Roosevelt possesses consummate sensitivity and tactical skill, radiating power and panache despite a physical vulnerability from the polio that left him without the use of his legs at 39. "His insight into common men," Black writes, "was the more remarkable because he was certainly not one of them, and never pretended for an instant that he was." By comparison, Black claims, most associates and rivals seemed like kindergarten children, yet some exceptions are fleshed out memorably, notably Roosevelt's selfless political intimates Louis McHenry Howe and Harry Hopkins, and his vigorous presidential competitor in 1940, the surprising Wendell Willkie. (Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor, comes off as both harridan and heroine.) Barring occasional lapses into English locutions like "Boxing Day" and "Remembrance Day"(the days after Christmas and Armistice Day), or "drinking his own bathwater," Conrad's style is lucid and engaging, witty and acerbic, with lines that cry out to be quoted or read aloud, as when he scorns an attack on the devotion of Roosevelt's daughter, Anna, with "Filial concern does not make the President a vegetable or his daughter a Lady Macbeth." A few minor historical errors deserve correction in what will assuredly be further printings, and the later sections appear to be composed in undue haste, but the sweeping and persuasive impact of this possibly off-puttingly big book makes it not only the best one-volume life of the 32nd president but the best at any length, bound to be widely read and discussed. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

More than half a century after Abraham Lincoln's presidency, the first best single volume biography of him was authored by Lord Charnwood (Godfrey Rathbone Benson), and now after only a slightly longer period, another certain classic on America's best president since Lincoln has been authored by another Englishman, Lord Black. The publication of this FDR biography is quite a feat since America's 32nd president served three times longer than its 16th president. A perspective that truly comprehends the global magnitude of America's two greatest chief executives may require the perspective from someone abroad. Author of two previous books and the chairman/CEO of Hollinger International, Inc. (publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator, and the Jerusalem Post), Black is a capable writer, able to sustain interest in a long narrative. However, his major achievement is putting FDR's leadership in both an American and an international perspective. He captures its prudential nature, always aiming for the middle ground between extremists at home (e.g., Huey Long and Douglas MacArthur) and modern ideological dictators abroad. The author clearly understands that FDR was the democratic alternative that made him the most important leader of the 20th century, surpassing the traditionalism of Winston Churchill. FDR's personal shortcomings are fully addressed, but Black shows that they did not undermine his political legacy. Both the general public and scholars will benefit from this highly readable account. An essential purchase for all libraries.Another British observer, Jenkins (Churchill), a Labor Party Member of Parliament and the author of 21 books, had nearly finished this short work on FDR when he died earlier this year. (Political scientist and Harvard professor Richard Neustadt completed it for him.) Jenkins's approach to FDR is generally positive. He notes that had FDR maintained the two-term tradition, he would have been regarded as only a nearly great president. Except for the British interest in social class and occasional comparisons to its leaders, this is a conventional introduction to FDR that political buffs and FDR fans will enjoy reading. Libraries with budget restraints are better served with the Black biography or with Patrick J. Maney's readable but more scholarly short biography, The Roosevelt Presence.-William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

This biography by controversial conservative press baron Black about the most influential leader of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is surprising because the author would not be expected to be an admirer of the man frequently called "a traitor to his class." Black regards FDR as the most important leader of modern times, and, unlike most conservatives, is not selective in his praise of all aspects of the New Deal. Perhaps his Canadian perspective allows him to see what fellow conservatives have not observed, that FDR was "the architect of the postwar world." Black uses primary sources, such as personal letters, diaries, memoranda, and interviews with people related to principal figures of the time, but relies mainly on secondary sources by historians, journalists, and Roosevelt's associates. Despite its immense size, the work goes over familiar ground, and Black unfortunately makes too many overstatements, such as his reference to Kaiser Wilhelm's decision to sink US ships as "one of the most colossal military and strategic blunders in the history of the world." Nevertheless, this interesting one-volume biography should interest general readers. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Public libraries and general and undergraduate collections. J. S. Schwartz CUNY College of Staten Island

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Part I The Predestined Squire, 1882-1932
Chapter 1 "I Like You and Trust You and Believe in You ... and Golden Years Open before You"p. 3
Chapter 2 "The Hardest Trader I've Ever Run Against"p. 45
Chapter 3 "That Battle Can Still Be Won"p. 85
Chapter 4 "Trial By Fire"p. 137
Chapter 5 "Devote That Intelligent Mind of Yours to the Problems of the State"p. 178
Part II The Great Depression and the New Deal, 1932-1938
Chapter 6 "Stay Alive 'til November"p. 225
Chapter 7 "His Essence Was Force ... the Relish of Power, and Command"p. 268
Chapter 8 "Never Let Your Left Hand Know What Your Right Hand Is Doing"p. 317
Chapter 9 "Franklin Is on His Own Now"p. 364
Chapter 10 "Save the Constitution From the Court and the Court From Itself"p. 404
Part III Toward the Rendezvous with Destiny--Undeclared War, 1938-1941
Chapter 11 "I Believe It Is Peace in Our Time"p. 455
Chapter 12 "Mr. Roosevelt, You Perhaps Believe That Your Intervention ... Can Be Effective Anywhere"p. 507
Chapter 13 "They Are Already Almost at the Boats!"p. 549
Chapter 14 "Whither Thou Goest, I Go ... Even to the End"p. 601
Chapter 15 President Roosevelt Will "Make War without Declaring It"p. 648
Part IV Day of Infamy and Years of Courage, 1941-1944
Chapter 16 "We Shall Never Cease ... Until They Have Been Taught a Lesson They and the World Will Never Forget"p. 683
Chapter 17 "Why Are You So Afraid of the Germans? Troops Must Be Blooded in Battle"p. 728
Chapter 18 "He Is the Greatest Man I Have Ever Known"p. 764
Chapter 19 "Roosevelt Recognized the Importance of Capturing Berlin as Both a Political and a Psychological Factor"p. 808
Chapter 20 "Always the Underdog ... I am Sick at Heart at the Mistakes and Lost Opportunities that are so Prevalent"p. 849
Part V Pax Americana, 1944-
Chapter 21 "OK, Let's Go"p. 901
Chapter 22 "It Was Difficult to Contradict This Artist, This Seducer"p. 947
Chapter 23 "Where Is Task Force 34, the World Wonders?"p. 998
Chapter 24 "In His Sensitive Hands Lay Much of the World's Fate"p. 1041
Chapter 25 "His Voice Is Silent But His Courage Is Not Spent"p. 1091
Notesp. 1135
Bibliographyp. 1187
Photo Creditsp. 1215
Indexp. 1217