Posted by: ushistoryfiles | March 7, 2012

Book Review – The Plots Against the President

The good folks at Bloomsbury Press sent me a copy of Sally Denton’s The Plots Against the President for review.  I was excited to read the book since this semester I am teaching American History II which roughly covers from Reconstruction to today, so a new book on Roosevelt and the Great Depression would certainly be relevant to the class.  My specialization is really from the colonial period to the Civil War, so whenever I teach American History II, I try to read books and articles that correspond to what I am teaching in order to enhance my understanding of the material.

I was hooked right away.  “Armed police guarded federal buildings, and rumors swirled that Roosevelt was going to appropriate dictatorial powers and impose martial law.”  Yep, I was hooked.

The Plots Against the President is part biography and part political history.  Instead of starting out with the election of 1932, Denton starts off with the birth of Roosevelt and gives a bit of background into the man before moving into the great depression and the events preceding the election.  In fact, though the books centers around two potentially history changing events, we don’t get to the first one – the assassination attempt of Franklin D. Roosevelt – until a good 70 pages into the book.

On February 13, 1933, Giuseppee Zangara attempted to assassinate F.D.R. in Florida.  I’ll leave it up to Plots to tell you the rest of the story, but had Zangara succeeded the history of the 1930s and 40s would look different.

The second plot that Denton describes was the claim of a conspiracy by several businessmen to overthrow F.D.R. as a reaction to Roosevelt’s leaving the gold standard.  The claim was made by a retired Marine Corps General and was taken quite seriously by J. Edgar Hoover.  Again I will let Plots tell the story.  Sally Denton has crafted a readable and enjoyable book, so if you are looking for a good read that covers little mentioned events in American History I can recommend Plots Against the President.


  1. I used to have a low opinion of history books that tried to pull readers based on controversial, high-strung premises. However, ever since I became a writer myself I’ve been able to understand that cranking it up to 11 isn’t a bad idea if you want to interest people not just in your work, but definitely an important period in American history.

    My first English history book was The Face of Battle by John Keegan. This might be next. Thanks!

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