Ascent to Power: How Truman Emerged from Roosevelt's Shadow and Remade the World (Hardcover)

Ascent to Power: How Truman Emerged from Roosevelt's Shadow and Remade the World By David L. Roll Cover Image
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From Franklin Roosevelt’s final days through Harry Truman’s extraordinary transformation, this is the enthralling story behind the most consequential presidential transition in US history. 

When Roosevelt, in failing health, decided to run for a fourth term, he gave in to the big city Democratic bosses and reluctantly picked Senator Truman as his vice president, a man he barely knew. Upon FDR’s death in April 1945, Truman, after only 82 days as VP, was thrust into the presidency. Utterly unprepared, he faced the collapse of Germany, a Europe in ruins, the organization of the UN, a summit with Stalin and Churchill, and the question of whether atomic bombs would be ready for use against Japan. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was growing increasingly hostile towards US power. Truman inherited FDR’s hope that peace could be maintained through cooperation with the Soviets, but he would soon learn that imitating his predecessor would lead only to missteps and controversy.
Spanning the years of transition, 1944 to 1948, Ascent to Power illuminates Truman’s struggles to emerge as president in his own right. Yet, from a relatively unknown Missouri senator to the most powerful man on Earth, Truman’s legacy transcends. With his come-from-behind campaign in the fall of 1948, his courageous civil rights advocacy, and his role in liberating millions from militarist governments and brutal occupations, Truman’s decisions during these pivotal years changed the course of the world in ways so significant we live with them today.

About the Author

David L. Roll is the author of George Marshall and The Hopkins Touch, and the coauthor of Louis Johnson and the Arming of America (with Keith McFarland), a biography of Harry Truman's defense secretary. After serving as an Assistant Director in the Bureau of Competition at the FTC, Roll practiced law as a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and founded Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation, a public interest organization that continues to provide pro bono legal services to social entrepreneurs around the world. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Praise For…

“With a complete mastery of the sources, David Roll takes us on the gripping journey from Harry Truman’s election as vice-president in 1944 through to his death, rightly concentrating on the crucial years that ended in his stunning re-election as president in 1948. Roll has a fine sense of all the key figures around Truman, but it is his insights into the man himself that are so valuable. Well-researched, well-written and intensely readable, this book confirms Truman as a giant of American—indeed global—history.”
Andrew Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

“The sudden death of Franklin Roosevelt shook the world; the recognition that power would pass to Harry Truman shook it even more. But the untested Truman turned out to be just what America and the world needed as World War II segued into the Cold War. No one has told this vital story more thoroughly or with greater verve and insight than David Roll does in this fine book.”
H. W. Brands, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The General vs. the President

“After winning World War II, America rebuilt the world—including its enemies. How that happened is one of the great stories of any age. Equally remarkable is how Harry Truman, a modest man of the people, took over from the great FDR to achieve this miracle. The author of brilliant biographies of Harry Hopkins and George C. Marshall, lawyer-turned-historian David Roll brings a clear and sharp eye for evidence and a deep human understanding to telling this tale. As the global order Truman built teeters at the brink, Ascent to Power could not be more relevant.”
—Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Road to Surrender

“Did any president inherit so many challenges, and such consequential ones, as Harry S Truman? After just eighty-two days as vice president—without ever being taken into the FDR’s confidence—the Missouri pol was left to deal with the end of a war and the launch of a new world order. David L. Roll’s riveting account of that momentous transition shows Truman rising to the occasion and more—forging a Western alliance, containing the Soviet Union, converting to a peacetime economy and supporting pent-up demands for civil rights. Writing with skill and drama, Roll tells us how this accidental president reshaped America and the world.”
—Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief, USA TODAY, and author of Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power

“Truman wasn't just a great president, he was a great human being—a model of integrity and resilience and duty that we can all learn from. Most people are changed by power, yet Truman somehow changed for the better. David Lee Roll's incredible book shows this process and its timeless lessons.”
—Ryan Holiday, #1 bestselling author of The Obstacle Is the Way and The Daily Stoic

“A riveting account of Harry Truman’s unexpected emergence onto the world scene, written with authority, candor, verve, and a keen eye for piercing and illustrative detail. David Roll has produced a marvelous account of the highs and lows of the consequential Truman Administration—from which so little was at first expected—triumphs and missteps included unflinchingly. Happily, Truman’s salty dialogue permeates these pages, flavoring Roll’s expert analysis of the leadership this accidental, but supremely confident, new president provided so boldly after the death of FDR. We can and should still argue about Truman’s legacy, but not about David Roll’s major contribution to the debate; this book sets a new standard.”
—Harold Holzer, director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College and author of Brought Forth on This Continent

“The Cold War demanded fertile statesmanship, which David Roll recreates with all the drama and credibility that distinguished his biographies of George Marshall and Harry Hopkins. This is history as literature, intensely relevant and a great read.”
—Richard Norton Smith, director of presidential libraries and author of An Ordinary Man

“In Ascent to Power, David Roll again proves himself a master of the immensely consequential years immediately after World War II, this time exploring one of the odder couples of American politics—the patrician Franklin Roosevelt and his everyman successor, the often-underestimated Harry Truman. Ascent to Power reveals how Truman steered the world's greatest global power through agonizing decisions about atomic weapons, deadly confrontations with recent ally U.S.S.R., and the beginning of a long-overdue reckoning with its hateful legacy of racism.”
David O. Stewart, author of George Washington and Madison's Gift

“Franklin Roosevelt towers over the history of the mid-20th century United States. But David Roll reminds us that it was FDR's sudden successor—plain, unassuming Harry Truman—who, more than any other single individual, consolidated and even defined an emerging American consensus about the organization of the free world and the first big steps toward civil rights at home. Experienced in writing about this period, Roll has a feel for the people and their times. He does a wonderful, readable job of placing readers at Truman's side as he and his colleagues felt their way through the upheavals and partisan crossfire of the great transition from war to peace.”
—Philip Zelikow, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, former counselor of the United States Department of State, and coauthor of To Build a Better World

“This riveting story examines a pivot point in American history, the transition from the patrician reformer Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Harry Truman, an apparently more ordinary person. David Roll captures the dynamism and resilience of democratic governance and its ability to respond to the most profound crises. He shows that leadership matters, but that democracy can work with leaders of very different sorts. Ascent to Power is both an extraordinary work of history and a book full of insights for our time.”
—Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and author of Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution

“This is an engrossing account of post-WWII history and a thrilling portrait of a humble man who did much to shape history.”
Booklist, starred review

“Exceptionally thorough, Roll’s blow-by-blow makes for an insightful portrayal of high-stakes diplomacy and politicking. This will enthrall mid-century history buffs.”
Publishers Weekly

“An intriguing historical study of a major presidential transition period... With solid research, Roll brings to life a short time frame that laid the foundation for the decades to come.”
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593186442
ISBN-10: 0593186443
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2024
Pages: 544
Language: English