Teddy the Historian-President
Books about Theodore Roosevelt are booming these days, including the third volume of Edmund Morris’ biography, the immense treatment of Roosevelt’s conservation record by Douglas Brinkley, and a volume (forthcoming at an undetermined date) from Doris Kearns Goodwin. Indeed, in May Smithsonian Press issued a heavily edited version of TR’s own History of the United States.
Roosevelt, as the last sentence suggests, was not one to leave the writing of history to the professional historians. His published volumes included:
- The multi-volume Winning of the West, which probably was his best and most-cited work;
- His History of the United States
- The Naval War of 1812 (his senior thesis at Harvard; not a bad trick getting one’s senior thesis published).
- Rough Riders, for which Roosevelt had the advantage of having been the organizer of that military unit during the Spanish-American War.
- New York, a review of the history of his home town.
- The Northwest Territory, 1787-1790.
- A biography of Gouverneur Morris, which I looked through while I was working on my book on the writing of the Constitution; as a biographer, Roosevelt had many and strong opinions and did not burden the reader with a great deal of research.
He also wrote books about the West, a region he fell in love with as a young man, incluidng Ranch Life in the Far West, Explorers of the Far West, and Hunting the Grisly.
Though not quite so prolific a writer as Winston Churchill, there is no denying that Roosevelt had an impressive output. Many historians, of course, lack the temperament and energy required of a national leader. It is rare to find a human being who is both gregarious and forceful enough to become a national leader, yet also is thoughtful and reflective enough to write a number of books, at least books that are not about himself or herself. That combination of qualities can produce extraordinary leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt.
So, which are the historians who have proved to be lousy politicians? Educate me, please!
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