In This Review
Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History

Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood

Enigma Books, 2001, 968 pp.

One of the best recent books published on American foreign policy was released more than 50 years ago. Sherwood, a gifted speechwriter for F.D.R. and friend of his adviser Harry Hopkins, wrote his book with astonishing access to relevant people and papers in 1948. He then won the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1949 and published a revised edition in 1950. Thankfully, Enigma Books has now brought this landmark back to life with a useful introduction by Irwin Gellman. Hopkins might today be called a "national security adviser" to his president, but this title would greatly understate his responsibilities -- which tended to extend to whatever problem was most important. This book focuses on the war years, using Hopkins as the best window through which to see the inner workings of global leadership. Despite his empathies, Sherwood was a rigorous historian and brilliant portraitist. In this current era of uncertainty and opportunity, Sherwood's book strongly, subtly resonates. Take his description of Roosevelt and Winston Churchill:

It would be an exaggeration to say that Roosevelt and Churchill became chums at this or any susbequent time. They established an easy intimacy, a joking informality and a moratorium on pomposity and cant -- and also a degree of frankness in intercourse which, if not quite complete, was remarkably close to it. ... They were two men in the same line of business -- politico-military leadership on a global scale -- and theirs was a very limited field and the few who achieve it seldom have opportunities for getting together with fellow craftsmen in the same trade to compare notes and talk shop.