The Roosevelts’ New York

Instructor: Ted Widmer
Thursdays, 10:00 AM – 12:40 PM
Modality: Hybrid Synchronous
Macaulay Classroom 2 (204)
Course Code: MHC 382

This class will study the progressive legacy of three prominent New Yorkers, all members of the same family: Theodore Roosevelt, his niece Eleanor, and her husband Franklin, a distant cousin. In their very different ways, they changed their city and country profoundly. But the class will go beyond traditional biography to study the ways in which New York acted as a classroom to them. Despite their privilege, each learned from the city’s problems as they forged a new politics of inclusivity and social justice. Finally, we will assess their legacy at a time of renewed interest in the New Deal and a possible Green New Deal. 

The class will enjoy a partnership with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, in Hyde Park, New York. Their online resources will be a part of the weekly reading, in addition to the three books assigned. If conditions permit, we may organize a field trip to the FDR Library, but in any case, we will have a virtual class with Paul Sparrow, the Library Director, on October 21. 

In addition to the weekly reading, you will be encouraged to find your own areas of research, with small assignments and a larger final project. Access to a large library such as the New York Public Library will help for general research; the FDR Library staff can help with more specific questions. 

Throughout the semester, we will also try to get at new ways of seeing the era in a fresh light, and to avoid easy generalizations. How can we pull the camera back from a male-dominated era to see women more clearly? Did the New Deal pay more attention to some groups than others? How were Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt different from each other? 

Finally, we will do our best to understand the shifting winds of history, as our own era renews contact with the Roosevelts, for reasons that have as much to do with ourselves as with them.”

Ted Widmer

Ted Widmer
Distinguished Lecturer

Macaulay Honors College
View Profile