Man of the People

Man of the People : A Life of Harry S. Truman

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The author offers an account of what he believes is a distinctly American life, that of Harry S. Truman. He traces Truman's rise from marginal farmer in rural Missouri to shaper of the post-war world. Harry Truman, Hamby writes, was a flawed man - insecure, often petty and vindictive - yet one of the great presidents of the 20th century. But Americans cherish him less for what he did than for who he was: an ordinary person who worked his way up the political ladder to the summit of more

Product details

  • Paperback | 776 pages
  • 154.94 x 233.68 x 53.34mm | 1,120.37g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 26 halftones, bibliography
  • 0195124979
  • 9780195124972

About Alonzo L. Hamby

About the Author: Alonzo L. Hamby is Professor of History at Ohio University. His books include Liberalism and its Challengers, The Imperial Years, and Beyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American more

Review quote

Hamby offers the most thorough analysis yet of Truman's pre-presidential life Noam Chomsky, The Guardian his subject shines through almost every page ... Man of the People is the best of the Truman biographies. Christopher Andrew, Sunday Telegraphshow more

Review Text

A game attempt by historian Hamby (Ohio Univ.) to replace the Oval Office bantamweight of political iconography with a more ambitious and self-doubting but able steward of the presidency. A self-described sissy who ran away from boyhood fights, Truman only managed to carve out an independent identity after the death of his demanding father by braving enemy fire as a WW I captain, winning longtime love Bess Wallace, and latching onto the Pendergast political machine in Kansas City. So wounded was he by this struggle to achieve respect and to remain personally honest in his compromised political environment that he would frequently suffer from exhaustion, unleash his fury in memos never sent to the offending parties, and diminish his presidential stature with erratic outbursts. In old age, Truman would gild events with nostalgic embellishments, such as an account of a 1920s Missouri campaign in which he faced down a Ku Klux Klan attempt at armed intimidation. Yet Hamby also celebrates Truman's presidency for the accomplishments usually hailed by historians, notably civil rights (in which Truman's better instincts about equality before the law won out over southern prejudice) and his defense of Western Europe as the Iron Curtain descended. Perhaps in reaction to David McCullough's Truman (1992), which he criticizes for failing to provide historical perspective, Hamby includes excellent analyses of Truman's difficulties in keeping together the loose New Deal coalition and his vacillation before recognizing Israel. Yet the author sometimes misplaces emphasis (e.g., he gives as much space to Truman's early venture capital fiascoes as to his 1948 "whistle-stop campaign"), he provides no background on the key decision to desegregate the armed forces, and occasionally jumps to conclusions. A cool, highly nuanced examination of Truman's cultural and political milieus, but sadly lacking in the pace and narrative shape of McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

29 ratings
3.72 out of 5 stars
5 24% (7)
4 41% (12)
3 17% (5)
2 17% (5)
1 0% (0)
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