Heard of Band of Brothers? You’ve heard of the late Stephen Ambrose. Unfortunately plagued by accusations of plagiarism later in life, a scholar of Eisenhower and Lewis and Clark he was best known , like AJP Taylor, as a sort of popularizer of history.
His colleague, Douglas Brinkley, a scholar of FDR and Cold War history also taught a very popular class, “The Majic Bus” wherein he traveled across the country with his students listening to period music and visiting historical sights. Aaaah college. You’ll get there.
Look in the book jacket at the other titles the two have authored. Take a look on the Internet to find out more about your two authors. Any “fun facts”?
My point though is that these two men want you to like history. The Kissinger and Pipes books, and Spence to come, are serious scholarly pieces dedicated to nuanced detail, analysis and argument. This little book is not exactly a “survey” (that’s your text book from last year, a “survey” of the current scholarship on history) it is based on their own research, but obviously its a different animal than “Diplomacy”. Its intended use is as a freshman or introductory course in history text.
So what does it say? To my eye it says that not until his election of 1940 did FDR show any sympathy at all to the Brits and not until November 1941, less than a month from Pearl Harbor, was his tone one of “unrestrained belligerence, in public and private”. Before that though, despite the fact the we actually have troops in Iceland and Greenland and a raging battle in the Atlantic defending the merchant ships supplying Britain, he cannot and will not bring the isolationist USA into war. Keep that in mind when you read Kissinger’s view of FDR.
There are two footnotes that you should not skip, one on Hitler’s decision to declare war on us and the other is on the myth of FDR’s knowledge of Pearl Harbor. The Intro in the eighth edition is worth a look as well. Sort of sad written in those heady days of victory in the Cold War, Clinton’s second term (first Democrat to win re-election since…?), and prior to 9/11. The ninth edition which some of you have I have not seen. I suspect it has been updated.