FDR: The First Hundred Days

Anthony J. Badger

Hill and Wang



Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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The Hundred Days, Franklin Roosevelt's first fifteen weeks in office, have become a yardstick against which every subsequent American president has felt obliged to measure himself. The historian Anthony J. Badger cuts through decades of politicized history to provide a succinct, balanced, and timely reminder that Roosevelt's accomplishment during that time was above all else an exercise in exceptional political craftsmanship.

Declaring that Americans had "nothing to fear but fear itself," Roosevelt entered the White House in 1933 confronting 25 percent unemployment, bank closings, and a nationwide crisis in confidence. From March 9 to June 16, FDR sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. From legalizing the sale of beer to providing mortgage relief to millions of Americans, Roosevelt launched the New Deal that conservatives have been working to roll back ever since. Badger emphasizes Roosevelt's political gifts even as the president and his brain trust of advisers, guided by principles, largely felt out their way toward solutions to the nation's manifold problems. Reintroducing the contingency that marked those fateful days, Badger humanizes Roosevelt and suggests a more useful and realistic yardstick for future presidents: the politics of the possible under the guidance of principle.


Praise for FDR: The First Hundred Days

"One book I've been recommending to friends and colleagues lately is Tony Badger's new book on Roosevelt, FDR: The First 100 Days. It's a classic example of how a work of history can illuminate the issues we're dealing with today. What it brings out with such clarity is how Roosevelt, faced with an economic crisis of unprecedented severity, was prepared to put aside conventional policy approaches and, instead, had the courage to innovate and improvise to see what would work. The imagination and humanity at the heart of some of the great New Deal innovations—such as the Tennessee Valley Authority or the Civilian Conservation Corps—changed American politics for ever, and shaped the future of progressive politics across the world. At the same time, this book illustrates FDR's skills as a communicator and a political operator, which earned him the public support and political space he needed for his programme to succeed. It's a brilliantly written, compelling and moving portrait of the man, and it's another outstanding example of how British historians add so much to the field of American history."—Prime Minister Gordon Brown, The Guardian

"As the United States heads into a presidential election overloaded with problems for our new leader to solve, FDR's actions upon taking office in 1933 are instructive. In this eminently readable, smart and judicious account, Tony Badger introduces us to Roosevelt's historic first hundred days and the innovative policies and personalities that laid the foundation for the New Deal."—Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

"Top of the political class's reading list on both sides of the Atlantic at Christmas was Cambridge historian Anthony Badger's slim, brilliant volume, FDR: The First Hundred Days. In Chicago, the impatient Barack Obama administration has made no secret of its determination to emulate Franklin D Roosevelt's 1933 blitzkrieg on Washington. Similarly, Gordon Brown has anointed Badger's history his book of the year. 'A classic example of how a work of history can illuminate the issues we're dealing with today,' he declared. 'The imagination and humanity at the heart of some of the great New Deal innovations changed American politics for ever and shaped the future of progressive politics across the world.'"—Tristram Hunt, The Observer (UK)

"Anthony Badger has written an elegant and bold synthesis about one of the most important moments in American political history. By demonstrating how President Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress were able to combine a powerful vision of reform and a keen sensibility of political realities, we learn how the First Hundred Days of the New Deal brought together a diverse coalition behind a powerful set of federal policies."—Julian E. Zelizer, Princeton University

"Lively, compact, and balanced, FDR: The First Hundred Days captures the New Deal's first burst of legislation, when the President and Congress united behind creative proposals for recovery from the nation's worse economic collapse and reform of the system that caused it."—Donald A. Ritchie, author of Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932

"Few historians have written as intelligently about the New Deal as Tony Badger. FDR: The First Hundred Days offers a fast-paced narrative and balanced analysis of Roosevelt's efforts to lift the United States out of highly desperate times."—James T. Patterson, author of Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal and Federalism in Transition: The New Deal and the States

"Written history is generally divided into three types: detailed history written by historians for historians, authoritative commercial works, and general histories. Anthony Badger's latest work falls into this category. It is a book that is useful for people wanting to know the basic facts, and the history community needs more of these types of books . . . Badger provides a clear and comprehensive view of a period which can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the legislation . . . Badger takes each of these issues in turn and presents them to you to clear, concise fashion . . . If you want a primer on the early New Deal, this is a good starting point."—Vincent W. Rospond, Bookslut

"With insight, great judiciousness, and extremely well-ordered pacing, Badger . . . reviews the pieces of legislation and analyzes their effectiveness. An important book in contributing to a complete picture of twentieth-century U.S. history that is clear and accessible."—Brad Hooper, Booklist

"A leading New Deal scholar summarizes and provides critical analysis of President Roosevelt's groundbreaking initial domestic and foreign initiatives . . . The book's distinguishing feature is the interpretive light the author shines on FDR's political skills. The president's ability to persuade lawmakers and his willingness to base policies on pragmatism rather than ideology sowed the seeds for the success of the programs subsequently implemented. Roosevelt, whom conservatives often demonize for having created the modern welfare and regulatory state, was in many respects a reluctant proponent of activist government. Badger notes that FDR's policies at various times were criticized equally harshly by those on the left and the right. He also maintains that while many of the policies initiated during this period provided at least short-term relief to many people, their more significant impact was on the nation's overall spirit and sense of self: 'What he had not found in 1933 was the magic key to economic recovery. But in the Hundred Days Roosevelt demonstrated that a democracy need not be paralyzed in the face of economic catastrophe.' The author is less certain about another legacy of that period. By starting his presidency with such a flurry of activity, Roosevelt established a standard that journalists and historians have since used as a benchmark for measuring other presidents, most of whom have fallen short."—Kirkus Reviews

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In the week following Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration as president of the United States on March 4, 1933, more than 460,000 Americans wrote to him in the White House. This unprecedented personal communication...

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  • Anthony J. Badger

  • Anthony J. Badger is Paul Mellon Professor of American History at Cambridge University and Master of Clare College. He is the author of a number of books, including North Carolina and the New Deal and The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933–1940.