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The New Deal and Public Policy

Author(s):Daynes, Byron D.
Pederson, William D.
Riccards, Michael P.
Reviewer(s):Namorato, Michael V.

Published by EH.NET (April 2000)

Byron W. Daynes, William D. Pederson and Michael P. Riccards, editors, The

New Deal and Public Policy. New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1998. 293 pp.

$49.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-312-17540-X.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Michael V. Namorato, Department of History,

University of Mississippi.

This volume grew out of the American Studies program at Louisiana State

University-Shreveport and its sponsorship of a presidential conference series

originally be ginning in 1983. In 1992, LSU-Shreveport sponsored a conference

on Abraham Lincoln which, in turn, led to a summer institute for teachers.

Three years later, in 1995, the university sponsored “Franklin D.

Roosevelt after Fifty Years.”

According to the editors, this 1995 conference had nearly one hundred scholar

participants and was “the largest ever held” on FDR, even winning awards from

the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (which apparently assisted in

funding it) and the Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad. The published result is

this volume on public policy.

The edited book is divided into four parts: agriculture; environment;

housing, welfare, and economics; and industry regulation. A brief

historiographical article concludes the work along with a

select bibliography and list of contributors. The authors are individuals who

have master’s degrees, or are doctoral students, or are academics in

disciplines such as political science, or are university administrators.

Evaluating this book is not an easy

task. In general, the work is disappointing. There are no notable New Deal

historians who contributed any articles, except for Roger Biles who has done

work on the New Deal on the local and regional level. In the articles

themselves, a good number of the

authors rely heavily on outdated secondary source materials. The articles offer

little or no originality whether it be in the problems studied, the approaches

used, or the conclusions drawn. And, at least one of the articles is simply a

jargon-filled social science tract of little value.

Fortunately, there are a few bright spots. June Hopkins, granddaughter of Harry

Hopkins, presents a substantive (although biased) study on Harry Hopkins’

attitude towards relief. Roger Biles offers a good piece on public housing,

demonstrating FDR’s dislike for such governmental interference.

Jim Codling writes a solid paper on the economic impact of Roosevelt’s programs

in Oktibbeha county, Mississippi and on Mississippi State University. And,

finally, Erik Carlson offers a good, yet tedious to read,

piece on the Civil Aeronautics Authority, showing how the federal government’s

role in this blossoming industry had particularly significant long-term


Nevertheless, other than these four articles, The New Deal and Public

Policy has little to offer. New Deal scholars or anyone interested in

Franklin D. Roosevelt and his era will not find anything in this work that adds

significantly to what is already known about this presidential era.

Michael V. Namorato is a

Professor of History at the University of Mississippi. He has published a

biography of Rexford Tugwell, edited the Tugwell diary, and edited a volume on

the New Deal and the South. He is also currently the editor of Essays in

Economic and Business History, the journal of the Economic and Business

Historical Society.

Subject(s):Economic Planning and Policy
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: Pre WWII