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My Review of The Bully Pulpit by Doris Goodwin

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As an avid reader of popular histories, and having thoroughly enjoyed her earlier work on Lincoln in Team of Rivals, I have been looking forward to the release of Doris Goodwin’s newest book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, for some time.  While there are many authors who write in the same vein as Goodwin (Tony Horwitz, Isabel Wilkerson, etc.), her ability to write about the large events in the lives of historical figures while never neglecting their emotionally complex inner lives makes her book an enjoyable read.

Replete with a wealth of primary source documents and set against a backdrop of all too familiar problems, from a widening gap between rich and poor, congressional deadlock, and corporate corruption, Doris Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit examines the personality and politics of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and the importance that the press played during the progressive era.  Goodwin does an excellent job in covering the formative years of the two presidents-to-be, the rise of America as a colonial superpower and with it, the rise of monopolies, the resulting economic fallout, and the impact of muckraking journalism.  Full of interesting characters such as Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair, and often-amusing anecdotes, such as the French ambassador, during a (naked) swim in the Potomac with Roosevelt, when asked why he still had his gloves on replied that “We might meet ladies!”, is a great read.  I really enjoyed how the different narratives build upon one another to create a richer, more nuanced understanding of early 20th century America.  Clocking in at just over 900 pages, Bully Pulpit presents its’ readers with an exciting, vividly detailed look at a critical time in American history when questions that we are  still struggling to answer today, such as what the government’s role should be, were first being raised.

Additionally, if you enjoyed this book, or are interested in the progressive era, I would suggest checking out Richard Zacks’ Island of Vice, which details Roosevelt’s time as police commissioner in New York City and How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riss, which details the squalid living conditions in New York City slums in the 1880s.

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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