This book had its genesis in the fact that I have for a long time felt uncomfortable with the standard works written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, and with the influence those works have exerted on others writing about and teaching U.S. history. Although I approach the subject from a very different perspective, Paul K. Conkin's preface to the second edition of The New Deal ( 1975) expressed many of my own misgivings about writings on the subject. Conkin wrote that "pervading even the most scholarly revelations was a monotonous, often almost reflexive, and in my estimation a very smug or superficial valuative perspective--approval, even glowing approval, of most enduring New Deal policies, or at least of the underlying goals that a sympathetic observer could always find behind policies and programs."
Studies of the New Deal such as Conkin described seemed to me to be examples of a genre relatively rare in U.S. historiography--that of "court histories," such as those that put the hump on the back of poor Richard III. Like the New Dealers themselves, the authors of these histories seemed to show a contempt toward critics of the New Deal akin to that of the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland in her dialogue with Alice:
"I've a right to think," said Alice. . . .
"Just about as much right," said the Duchess sharply, "as pigs have to fly."
But, like most historians teaching courses dealing with the Roosevelt period, I was captive to the published works unless I was willing and able to devote the