Photo: Evan Eile
The 12 years Ohio University Professor of History Alonzo Hamby
spent working on his biography of Harry Truman was time well spent, according
to fellow historians and critics.
Man of the People, A Life of Harry S. Truman ($35, Oxford University Press) has attracted praise from book critics nationwide, including those in The New York Times, Washington Post Book World, Chicago Sun-Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Man of the People hit the bookstores in the fall.
Noted historian and author Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the book "an altogether splendid biography. It combines well-paced narrative and sensitive portraiture with incisive analysis in setting Harry Truman against the troubles and triumphs of a turbulent time."
Michael Beschloss, a Cable News Network commentator and author, offered: "One of the most eminent Truman scholars in the historical profession, at the capstone of his career, has brought us a deeply researched, often surprising scholarly life of the 33rd president, raising questions that will absorb the general reader and animate historians for years to come."
Hamby, a 20th century American political historian and member of Ohio University's Contemporary History Institute faculty, outlines Truman's accidental rise to commander-in-chief, and the motivations behind Truman's Fair Deal domestic programs and anti-Soviet foreign policies. Hamby "fills in the social, economic and psychological forces that shaped" the life of the straight-talking Missouri politician who became known as one of America's greatest presidents, wrote San Francisco Chronicle critic Chris Pasilelis.
Included in Hamby's biography is a thorough examination of the most enduring ethical question of the Truman presidency: the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
"Some critics have suggested that he should have engaged in a grim calculus, that it would have been the moral thing to accept a 'worst case estimate' of an additional 46,000 American deaths without use of the bomb. No one who might conceivably have been president of the United States in the summer of 1945 would have withheld the bomb while facing that prospect."
When Hamby's book was released in October, it marked the fourth recent book by faculty of the Ohio University Department of History, a relatively small unit of 25 faculty. The others are: