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William Leuchtenburg, at age 93, is out with a big fat new book

William Leuchtenburg’s goal in writing The American President was to provide a definitive history of the rise of the United States presidency, from virtual insignificance throughout the 19th century to global powerhouse in the 20th.

The venerable historian’s quotation-laden, fact-crammed account — written under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Foundation — details and assesses the tenures of those who served from William McKinley’s assassination in 1901 to Bill Clinton’s departure in 2001.

From Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom Leuchtenburg rates as the nation’s second most significant president after Abraham Lincoln, to Warren G. Harding, who conceded his own unsuitability for the job, readers can learn in one, admittedly lengthy, volume almost everything they ever wanted to know about 17 men who led the country in the century in which the United States became the world’s pre-eminent power and its president the world’s most powerful person.

This is no small task, given the plethora of presidential biographies and histories; the bibliography, which the University of North Carolina history professor acknowledges represents only a portion of available volumes, includes more than 40 on FDR alone, several by Leuchtenburg. Though he recently celebrated his 93rd birthday, he has started a companion volume on the republic’s first 112 years.

The mass of material in this 812-page volume may deter some potential readers, and Leuchtenburg undercuts his own impressive research job with inexplicable factual errors.

His basic thesis is convincing: Theodore Roosevelt’s energetic presidency was the point where the presidency became “markedly different from what preceded it.” ...

Read entire article at The Dallas Morning News