[Kennedy's Freedom From Fear] provides us with an engrossing narrative of a momentous time, the best one-volume account of the Roosevelt era currently available ... Kennedy is concerned with the big political, economic and military questions, the large decisions, who made them and why. Dead white males predominate. Not that Kennedy fails to consider minorities and women...but these fashionable topics are decidedly secondary to his story ... American culture, particularly popular culture, is all but ignored. Yet...he is still able to soldier along with dramatic discussions of the Great Depression, the New Deal, the rise of the totalitarians and World War II. Indeed, with event piling on history-making event, Freedom From Fear is, despite its 936-page length, a miracle of compression ... for sheer drama, nothing can top his pages describing how a basically isolationist nation entered the war in the first place. They are the high point of Freedom From Fear.
Mr Kennedy lapses unblushingly, and far too often, into ancient journalese ... But that is really the worst that can be said of this otherwise splendid book. It is a worthy addition to the multi-volume Oxford History of the United States and deserves to become the standard work of introduction to its three subjects ... Mr Kennedy is master of his material in a double sense. He exhibits a comprehensive knowledge of events, making very few factual slips ... Yet Mr Kennedy knows his period, and is also an expert in the vast accumulation of scholarship which it has called forth ... Much of the story is familiar, but all of it is put together in a way to advance understanding and necessitate a new approach to American history in the Roosevelt era ... One of the most valuable forms of scholarly originality.
David M. Kennedy has undertaken an original approach to modern history ... Freedom From Fear is more than one president's personal and political story. It's a wide-angle look at America in peace and war that brings into focus the nature of leadership and the conflicting regional and philosophical divisions in the nation ... Kennedy succeeds in providing a panoramic view of the great battles in every theater of warfare ... Based on his detailed footnotes and very helpful bibliographic essay, it's evident he has done a superb job of research in his military as well as his home-front writings ... The kind of book prizes are made for.
Kennedy is too good a historian and too sensitive a writer to fall for a single-minded, mordant perspective .. While Kennedy's treatment of the 1930s is engaging but rather predictable, the author's chapters on World War II consistently rise to the level of the best historical narratives ... The author is just as clear-eyed about the political myopia that may have prolonged the killing and the prejudice that undermined the morality of the war at home ... His conclusions may not be original. But to write about the fires of change with grace, empathy and common sense is an achievement indeed.
The author does well in selecting salient events and colorful, representative details to illuminate this critical period in the American Century. A major achievement in objective historical writing that should be a legacy to generations of students seeking authoritative reference material on the period.
Rarely does a work of historical synthesis combine such trenchant analysis and elegant writing ... Kennedy uses a wide canvas to depict all aspects of the American political, social and economic experience from 1929 to 1945. Throughout, he takes care to detail parts of the American story often neglected by more casual histories ... Kennedy's book will stand for years to come as the definitive history of the most important decades of the American century.