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Fear Itself

Ira Katznelson has produced an exceptionally engaging and thoughtful account of the New Deal era.

Fear Itself, by Ira Katznelson
pp. 720

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Eighty years ago, with the nation mired in a deep economic slump, President Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated and immediately launched the New Deal.  Before long, the direction and velocity of American government had been permanently altered. Popular and scholarly interest in the events of that era has never diminished. Indeed, in light of the recent economic turmoil, the nature and impact of the New Deal has, if anything, been a subject of even greater interest.     

Columbia University historian Ira Katznelson brings a fresh and thoughtful perspective to this much studied topic in Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of our Time. Rather than focusing on President Roosevelt, the executive branch or the courts, Katznelson examines Congress and its role in shaping the New Deal.  He also uses a wider lens than most other writers – rather than the conventional approach that considers the New Deal as something that took place largely between 1933 and 1937, Katznelson refers to “the New Deal period” lasting from Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933 to the start of the Eisenhower administration in 1952. "Fear Itself" is insightful, authoritative, and convincing.  It is a well-written model of historical scholarship that draws upon the enormous research on the New Deal and synthesizes it into a careful, thoughtful argument.


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