Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR

Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR

Dean J. Kotlowski
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/02/2015
Format: Hardback 25 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01468-9
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In this major biography of an important politician and statesman, Dean Kotlowski presents the life of Paul V. McNutt, a great understudied figure in the era of FDR. McNutt was governor of Indiana, high commissioner to the Philippines (while serving he helped 1,300 Jews flee Nazi Germany for Manila), head of the WWII Federal Security Agency, and would-be presidential candidate. Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR explores McNutt’s life, his era, and his relationship with Franklin Roosevelt. It sheds light on the expansion of executive power at the state level during the Great Depression, the theory and practice of liberalism as federal administrators understood it in the 1930s and 1940s, the mobilization of the American home front during World War II, and the internal dynamics of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. McNutt’s life underscores the challenges and changes Americans faced during an age of economic depression, global conflict, and decolonialization.

Author Bio

Dean J. Kotlowski is Professor of History at Salisbury University in Maryland, author of Nixon's Civil Rights: Politics, Principle, and Policy, and editor of The European Union: From Jean Monnet to the Euro.


“In this rich book, Dean Kotlowski provides not only the definitive and long-overdue biography of Indiana’s Paul McNutt, an important but now largely-overlooked politician and administrator of the 1930s and 1940s, but he also nicely illuminates the era and its politics. Deeply-researched, well-written, and persuasively-argued, this study adds impressively to the historiography of the age of Roosevelt.”
 — John W. Jeffries, author of Wartime America: The World War II Home Front

“Kotlowski works in multiple contexts ranging from Indiana history to the development of liberalism in America to internal presidential politics to America's colonial empire, but he also has a feel for McNutt the man. He situates the story within the best recent historiography and makes a good case for exploring FDR from the margins while focusing on McNutt.”
 — Allan M. Winkler, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Making of Modern America

“Paul McNutt was one of the New Deal era’s most activist governors. His determined leadership brought change in a state reluctant to change and placed him on the national stage as a presidential contender. Dean Kotlowski’s superbly researched biography brings new understanding to McNutt’s personal and political life and makes for absorbing reading.”
 — James H. Madison, author of Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana

“Paul V. McNutt was famous in the New Deal era and is now forgotten. Dean J. Kotlowski brings McNutt back to life in this engaging, well-researched and readable biography. A must for anyone interested in FDR and his times.”
 — Lewis L. Gould, author of The Republicans: A History of the Grand Old Party

“This massively researched and well-written biography finally remedies the surprising absence of a high quality scholarly work on Paul V. McNutt. Dean Kotlowski's definitive study clearly demonstrates McNutt's significance as a politician, colonial administrator, and federal agency chief in the 1930s and 1940s and is very revealing on the strengths and weaknesses of his personal character. In illuminating McNutt's career in such diverse areas of mid-twentieth century politics and government, this masterly volume should become essential reading for scholars interested in the Age of Roosevelt.”
 — Iwan Morgan, author of The Age of Deficits: Presidents and Unbalanced Budgets from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush

“Dean Kotlowski has written an intriguing tale of ambition and statesmanship that enriches our understanding of the New Deal. Gracefully written and thoroughly researched, Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR takes us through McNutt's reign as governor of Indiana to his 1940 campaign for the White House—a quest that is dramatically thwarted by the larger than life president he served—to his key role in upholding the New Deal causes of economic and international security during and after the Second World War. Along the way, the author examines a gifted Hoosier's critical supporting role in two of the most important dramas of American history—the rise of the welfare state and the expansion of the American empire. Scholars and students of history will appreciate this fresh and probing look at Franklin Roosevelt's path-breaking leadership through the eyes of a loyal subordinate and rival for power.”
 — Sidney M. Milkis, University of Virginia

“Sturdy biography of a political stalwart of the past, largely forgotten now . . . One of the many virtues of Kotlowski's book is that it covers the necessary ground—a challenge, given McNutt's many careers and accomplishments . . . [a] capable, readable biography.”
 — Kirkus Reviews

“[T]his well-written biography intertwines McNutt's and FDR's political careers to make clear, as IU President Herman B Wells said in his eulogy for McNutt, 'Some dominate the scene even though they walk with giants. Such a man was Paul Vories McNutt.'”
 — Bloom Magazine

“Dean Kotlowski has written a definitive biography of Indiana Gov. Paul V. McNutt. [The book] shows Kotlowski’s grasp of McNutt’s importance on the national stage.”
 — Indianapolis Star

“This hefty new biography . . . demonstrates that McNutt was a central figure in the New Deal era despite his complicated, and not always friendly, relationship with Roosevelt. . . The delicate dynamics between the two men, coupled with the author’s thorough account of his subject’s life and role in the ideological development of the modern Democratic party, are fascinating.”
 — Weekly Standard

“A fine, scholarly biography of Paul V. McNutt, a politician who dreamed of one day becoming president . . . Kotlowski has examined an impressive number of manuscript collections, oral history memoirs, and other works. He discusses McNutt's successes and failures in an eminently fair-minded way.”
 — Journal of American History

“[This book] will stand as the definitive McNutt biography and should do much to resurrect the Hoosier's exemplary career to Indiana, midwestern, and national political historians.”
 — Michigan Historical Review

“Kotlowski produces a readable, quotable, and highly analytical overview of McNutt's life . . . This book is essential reading based upon massive research.”
 — Indiana Magazine of History

“Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR is a very well written and researched piece that will serve as a remembrance of one of Indiana’s most effective Governors, who was—for a brief moment—a possible candidate for the highest office in American politics.”
 — International Social Science Review

“McNutt’s life and career are worth remembering and are well portrayed in Kotlowski’s admirable book.”
 — American Historical Review

“A compelling interpretation of Paul V. McNutt . . . Kotlowski breathes life into the story of a character whose career intersected with the Depression, colonialism, war, and communism. The book thus speaks to the virtue of biography as a vehicle for interpreting the past, as McNutt’s career offers insight on many of the major issues in American politics during the 1930s and 1940s.”
 — Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“A work of deep scholarship and biographical rigor, Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR stands as an account of a busy and productive public career overshadowed by unfulfilled ambition . . . Dean J. Kotlowski has produced a fine biography that meticulously reveals the weaknesses and limitations of its subject.”
 — Australasian Journal of American Studies

“In this extraordinarily well researched and well written biography . . . Kotlowski has provided a welcome treatment of this now-forgotten politician.”
 — American Political Thought

““Kotlowski’s [Paul V. McNutt and the Age of FDR] will not only stand as the definitive biography . . . but also as a standard by which other biographies should be judged.””
 — Ohio History

“[Kotlowski] offers a rich portrait of McNutt, his wife, daughter, parents, and close associates as well as the larger forces and events that shaped their lives. . . . Scholars and others with an interest in the politics of the 1920s–1940s will mine much useful and valuable information from this study of McNutt’s life.”
 — Presidential Studies Quarterly

“The life of a great understudied figure in the era of FDR—a governor of Indiana, high commissioner to the Philippines, head of the WWII Federal Security Agency, and would-be presidential candidate—whose life underscores the challenges and changes Americans faced during an age of economic depression, global conflict, and decolonialization.”

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Introduction: A Man, an Era, and a President
1. "I See... a Great Future" (1891-1913)
2. New Departures, Old Haunts (1913-1925)
3. Triumph and Tragedy (1925-1926)
4. The Legion and Leadership (1926-1928)
5. National Vistas, State Elections (1929-1932)
6. A New Deal for Indiana (1933-1934)
7. "Hoosier Hitler" (1935-1936)
8. Breaking Away (1937-1938)
9. Humanitarian--and Home (1937-1939)
10. Paul V. and Franklin D. (1939-1940)
11. Ambition Frustrated (1940)
12. Dimensions of Security (1939-1945)
13. Mobilizing Manpower (1942-1945)
14. Returning to the Philippines (1945-1947)
15. Fading Away (1947-1955)

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