An Intimate History
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
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New York Times Bestseller
A vivid and personal portrait of America’s greatest political family and its enormous impact on our nation, which expands on the hugely acclaimed seven-part PBS documentary series, bringing readers even deeper into these extraordinary leaders’ lives
With 796 photographs, some never before seen
The authors of the acclaimed and best-selling The Civil War, Jazz, The War, and Baseball present an intimate history of three extraordinary individuals from the same extraordinary family—Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Geoffrey C. Ward, distilling more than thirty years of thinking and writing about the Roosevelts, and the acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns help us understand for the first time that, despite the fierce partisanship of their eras, the Roosevelts were far more united than divided.
All the history the Roosevelts made is here, but this is primarily an intimate account, the story of three people who overcame obstacles that would have undone less forceful personalities.
Theodore Roosevelt would push past childhood frailty, outpace depression, survive terrible grief—and transform the office of the presidency.
Eleanor Roosevelt, orphaned and alone as a child, would endure her husband’s betrayal, battle her own self-doubts, and remake herself into the most consequential first lady in American history—and the most admired woman on earth.
And Franklin Roosevelt, born to privilege and so pampered that most of his youthful contemporaries dismissed him as a charming lightweight, would summon the strength to lead the nation through the two greatest crises since the Civil War, though he could not take a single step unaided.
The three were towering personalities, but The Roosevelts shows that they were also flawed human beings who confronted in their personal lives issues familiar to all of us: anger and the need for forgiveness, courage and cowardice, confidence and self-doubt, loyalty to family and the need to be true to oneself. This is the story of the Roosevelts—no other American family ever touched so many lives.
Geoffrey C. Ward is the author of seventeen books, including three focused on FDR: Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt, 1882–1905; A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt (which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize); and Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley. A longtime collaborator with Ken Burns, he has also won seven Emmys and written twenty-seven historical documentaries for PBS, either on his own or in collaboration with others, including The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.
Ken Burns, director and producer of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, has been making documentary films for more than thirty-five years. Since the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Burns has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The War, and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Burns’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including thirteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Oscar nominations; and in September 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Burns was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Praise for The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns
“Ken Burns is America’s premier storyteller . . . Burns and Ward not only introduce us to the diverse projects and achievements of the New Deal. They also highlight FDR’s Four Freedoms and Second Bill of Rights speeches. Moreover, filling out the experience of the series, the coffee-table-sized companion volume that they have put together—replete with photographs and illustrations drawn from the series—is a true companion to the documentary. So, after you've watched nearly 14 hours of The Roosevelts on your local PBS channel, you can read over and reflect on what you've seen by way of their text."
—Harvey J. Kay, The Daily Beast
“The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns, is a companion volume to an upcoming PBS series and is richly laden with images: from period photographs and editorial cartoons to reprints of letters and front page headlines . . . a fascinating, eminently readable, and well researched triple biography . . . The subjects of this book were nothing if not optimistic. They believed they could do great things and they succeeded more often than not . . . Whether it was Teddy’s ‘Square Deal’ or Franklin’s ‘New Deal’ or Eleanor’s various crusades, most Americans, especially the less affluent, believed that these three people, so different from them in so many ways, were on their side. This book pays well-deserved tribute to the three remarkable Roosevelts and makes a wonderful read."
—Christian Science Monitor
“The coffee-table-style book chronicles the lives of distant cousins Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Franklin’s wife, Eleanor. It covers almost 100 years in their lives — from Teddy’s sickly childhood to Eleanor’s death in 1962. It’s enhanced with hundreds of photos as the co-authors link the legacies of these political heavyweights.”
—Fort Worth Star‑Telegram
“Ward, distilling more than 30 years of research and writing about this illustrious family, helps us understand that despite fierce partisanship, the Roosevelts were far more united than divided. Burns has collected photographs from countless sources to visually tell the story . . . So many excellent books have been written about the Roosevelts it seems impossible that there is anything left to tell, however, Ward and Burns focus on the intimate side of the lives of these three persons. The book looks at this extraordinary threesome through a fresh lens making the book a wonderful addition to the body of Roosevelt literature. Most outstanding are the hundreds of photographs and cartoons of their eras. The Roosevelts were in office a significant portion of the century and left a lasting imprint on our society. Anyone interested in 20th Century American history will find this work important reading.”
—Bill Schwab, The Missourian
“For those who prefer reading to watching, historian Geoffrey C. Ward and filmmaker Ken Burns have produced a book version, subtitled An Intimate History. This a heavy book — not in its prose, which streams clearly along through short and generously illustrated chapters, but in its coffee-table heft. The Roosevelts weighs in at 4.7 pounds, a lapful by anybody’s measure. Then again, these three people had a weighty impact on history. As the book says in its introduction, ‘No other American family has touched so many lives.’ But, oh the artwork — 796 photos and illustrations, many of them snapped in unguarded moments.”
—St Louis Post-Dispatch
"With 788 photos, this gorgeously illustrated coffee-table book celebrates a political dynasty. Exploring the bonds between Theodore, Elanor and FDR, the work is a companion to Burns seven-part PBS series, airing in September."
—AARP The Magazine (Editors' Pick)
“Burns' longtime writing partner Geoffrey C. Ward also is a major figure on The Roosevelts, contributing superb writing and narrative structure, and also serving as one of several important historians who speak on camera, along with Doris Kearns Goodwin, William E. Leuchtenburg and others. Ward's passion for the work is evident when the historian comes near to breaking up when recounting FDR's encounter with polio . . . Great value not only for Ward's well-written and deeply researched text, but also for the opportunity to more thoroughly study at your own pace the hundreds of rare images assembled for the project.”
—Democrat & Chronicle
"Impressively thorough . . . Starting with Teddy’s asthma-plagued youth and ending with Eleanor’s death in 1962, every aspect of their lives and legacies is touched upon. Hundreds of photos, newspaper clippings, and accompanying captions flesh out the story, which expands to cover their friends and family, enemies, and (alleged) lovers. . . . Part history, part biography, Ward and Burns strike the perfect balance between information and entertainment, keeping the tone casual yet authoritative . . . the perfect coffee table book treatment."
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“The very definition of ‘lavishly illustrated’ . . . a lucid text . . . superbly curated photographs . . . documenting such things as bracing hunts in the Rockies, anti-lynching demonstrations in Washington and boats full of teenage soldiers powering toward the beaches of Normandy . . . Excellent, as we have come to expect from the team of Ward and Burns—an eye-opening look at a political dynasty worthy of the name and at a state of politics far better than our own.”