Nigel Hamilton

Author, 'The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942' and 'American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush'

Nigel Hamilton’s "The Mantle of Command; FDR at War, 1941-1942" will be published in May, 2014 - the first of two volumes recounting Franklin D. Roosevelt's role as U.S. Commander in Chief in World War II.

Advance review, LIbrary Journal:
"Franklin D. Roosevelt’s role as commander in chief of the military during World War II has not been covered as much as other aspects of his presidency. Hamilton (senior fellow, McCormack Graduate Sch., Univ. of Massachusetts-Boston; JFK: Reckess Youth) is well qualified to remedy that, showing how FDR worked with individuals and nations. He blasts Winston Churchill’s colonialist values, poor selection of military leaders, and constant meddling in their tactical plans, as well as Douglas MacArthur’s vanity and failure to prepare for a Japanese attack, but shows that FDR appreciated both men as fighters. Hamilton presents FDR as a serious student of world affairs who learned from his six years as assistant secretary of the navy. Unlike most books on Henry Stimson, FDR’s secretary of war, and George C. Marshall, his chief of staff of the army, Hamilton’s work critiques them for their opposition to Operation Torch in French North Africa in 1942, opposition that was near mutiny against the president. Marshall’s disagreement, Hamilton charges, cost him command of the Normandy invasion: FDR brought Adm. William Leahy out of retirement to be chairman of the combined chiefs of staff, putting the Pentagon in its place just as he did the Axis powers. VERDICT This convincingly written and gripping volume is essential for historians, political scientists, and history buffs, for a deeper understanding of the principle of civilian supremacy of the military in the U.S. political system."—­William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., ­Shreveport

Nigel Hamilton has published twenty works of biography and history, including Monty, the official 3-volume official biography of World War II general, Field Marshal Montgomery – which won the Whitbread Award for Biography and the Templer Medal for Military History. He is also author of JFK: Reckless Youth, which was a New York Times Bestseller, and was dramatized for ABC TV as a mini-series, starring Patrick Dempsey. He has written two volumes of a trilogy on the life of the 42nd President, Bill Clinton: An American Journey and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency, as well as two works on the history and practice of biography: Biography: A Brief History, and How To Do Biography: A Primer. His most recent work, a historical biography of the last twelve presidents, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents, From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, was published in 2010. He is a Senior Fellow in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sample reviews of Nigel Hamilton's "American Caesars: Lives of the U.S. Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush

“If you hate George W Bush and American neoconservatism, you will love this book” – Andrew Roberts, New Statesman

"In explicit emulation of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, Hamilton presents character sketches of U.S. presidents since 1945, excluding Barack Obama. Encompassing their pursuit of power, tenure, and personal lives, emphasizing female relationships with wives and other women, the portraits attempt to reveal the men behind the presidential image. Opinionated but acutely insightful, Hamilton grasps the effects of personal traits on the presidency, as shown in his biographies JFK (1992) and Bill Clinton (two volumes, 2003 and 2007). Summarizing in this work the insatiable carnality of those narcissistic chief executives, Hamilton also cleaves to the maturation in their understanding of leadership––both JFK and Clinton recovered from serious political mistakes. So describing character traits sterling or dross, and their influence on behavior in office, Hamilton praises FDR, admires Truman (with caveats), grants peacekeeping probity to Ike, and is illusion-free concerning JFK. Considering their successors all lesser presidents, Hamilton ranges from condemnation of LBJ, Nixon, and George W. Bush to ambivalence about Reagan; but biography fans won’t equivocate: Hamilton’s effrontery in mimicking Suetonius pays off in irreverent, pedestal-toppling prose." — Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"A provocative, stimulating, infuriating and readable history" - Hugh MacDonald, Herald (Scotland)

"It succeeds brilliantly, not least because of the contrast between Hamilton's restrained and well-tempered political judgments and the deliciously gossipy 'private lives.' ... He obviously reveres Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy above all others. And he even manages to find something nice to say about Jimmy Carter... Clearly, Hamilton admires Clinton and believes he had greatness in him. 'Thus did the tragedy of Bill Clinton's presidency unravel,' he writes sadly, 'a reign at once so positive and yet so negative for America. As the national exchequer filled, public trust in the silver-tongued Democratic president diminished, creating a deep public yearning in America for a more disciplined, authoritative leadership, such as that being offered by an unseasoned, seemingly simple-minded Republican: the born-again Christian son of the forty-first president.'
It is just one of many acute and well--observed judgments in this engaging book. American Caesars is a commanding study on the nature of personal authority and the presidency.: - Richard Aldous, The Irish Times

“The idea is intriguing – to mimic Suetonius’s history of the Caesars in a biography of the last 12 US presidents. Hamilton’s book follows Suetonius’s model closely.... It is comprehensive, largely accurate and clearly written.” – Domenic Sandbrook, London Sunday Times

“The best piece in the book is, undoubtedly, the one on Gerald Ford... the one on George W. Bush is virtually an attempt at assassination.” – Anthony Howard, Daily Telegraph

“Works marvellously!” – Prof. Mary Beard, The Today Show, BBC Radio 4

"Chosen to lead the United States at the height of its power during what Henry Luce called the 'American Century,' our least 12 presidents, Hamilton reminds us, 'surely deserve to be seen ... unflinchingly and yet with charity" - Glenn Altschuler, Boston Globe

"American history from 1933 to 2008 surely has been full of “sin and woe,” as Nigel Hamilton vividly shows us. Why? Aside from the nastiness of other countries and bad weather, it’s because presidents are, alas, human beings. Sometimes, however, they do good despite this flaw.

"Author of several biographies, including volumes on the young JFK and one on BIll Clinton, and winner of numerous awards, Hamilton is superbly qualified to tell these stories.

"Modeled on one of the famous classics of antiquity, The Twelve Caesars of Suetonius, Hamilton’s book tells in twelve essays of forty or fifty pages each how the presidents, the modern “Caesars” who ruled over the grand empire begun in Roosevelt’s day, came to win the prize, what they did in office, and the private lives they lived. The author’s liberalism shows from the start; but even lovers of Bush, haters of Roosevelt, might be astonished by what they would learn in the “Private Lives” sections of these short biographies.

"Having lived through the years Hamilton covers, I remember much of what he writes about. Younger readers, who may not even know that Gerald Ford existed, will learn a lot. It’s unlikely that anybody has read all the memoirs, biographies, and histories Hamilton cites, so even the well-informed are likely to be surprised by a great many things they’ll find in this concise history.

"Once in office, presidents must produce prosperity and avoid failures of any sort. Roosevelt was the champion, but here Lyndon Johnson, clearly a man of the people from a background of poverty, did very well—until Vietnam brought him down. Hamilton gives his readers all the pertinent background, and then doesn’t hesitate to let his opinions be known. When all of LBJ’s advisers demanded that he seek peace in Vietnam, the president had had enough. He told the world that he would not run for another term. Here’s Hamilton’s take:

'Though the announcement seemed to bring him a brief moment of comfort . . . , the notion that the leader of the free world could simply and suddenly terminate his duties, in the midst of a war, without diminishing his authority as president and mortally wounding his own political party, was an illusion.'

"Reagan, on the other hand, faced no such problem; he cut taxes and left the economy in relatively good shape. Most people ignored the huge debt he ran up rebuilding the military because he successfully forced Gorbachev to 'tear down that wall!'

"Throughout, Hamilton shows how the personalities of the presidents drove the methods each used to govern. All of them were stubborn, but some took advice from their staffs, and others were easily led. Henry Kissinger, and later neocons like Donald Rumsfeld, wielded enormous influence. In the later years, particularly, most didn’t hesitate to find aides who would circulate bald-faced lies about their opponents. George H. W. Bush used Lee Atwater to saddle Michael Dukakis with the Willie Horton ads. Nixon, whom Hamilton thinks was certifiably insane, committed outright crimes like the Watergate burglary of Democratic headquarters.

"Nobody could write complete biographies of any of these presidents in such short essays, but Hamilton does a superb job of getting at their essences, no matter his liberal bias; all historians are biased. He has done an immense amount of research, using insider memoirs and earlier biographies, and numerous personal interviews of the players as his sources. He includes an extensive bibliography and excellent endnotes.

"Anyone who enjoys reading history, and loves to look behind the curtain to see the wizards at work, will find this book well worth reading." - Carter Jefferson, Internet Review of Books

September 24, 2017
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