Susan Dunn's Study of Roosevelt's Purge Finalist for LA Times Book Prize

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., February 24, 2011–“Roosevelt’s Purge: How FDR Fought to Change the Democratic Party” (Harvard University Press) by Susan Dunn, the Preston S. Parish Third Century Professor of Arts and Humanities at Williams College, been chosen as a finalist for the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the history category. There are a total of five finalists.

Dunn,SusanThe 2010 Los Angeles Book Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in the Chandler Auditorium in Los Angeles. The ceremony will inaugurate the 2011 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held at the University of Southern California on April 20 and May 1.

“Roosevelt’s Purge” tells the dramatic story of FDR’s unprecedented battle to drive conservative, anti-New Deal Democrats out of the Democratic Party by intervening in Democratic primaries and backing liberal challengers to conservative incumbents. Reporters branded his tactic a “purge”—and the inflammatory label stuck. Roosevelt spent the summer months of 1938 campaigning across the country, defending his progressive policies and lashing out at conservatives. Although the purge failed, at great political cost to the president, it heralded the realignment of political parties that would take place in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. By the end of the century, the irreconcilable tensions within the Democratic Party had exploded, and the once solidly Democratic South was solid no more.

“Roosevelt’s Purge” won the 2010 Henry Adams Prize, awarded by the Society for History in the Federal Government.  In a review, the Wall Street Journal wrote “Dunn has written an engaging story of bare-knuckled political treachery that pits a president at the peak of his popularity against entrenched congressional leaders.” Publishers Weekly wrote that Dunn’s book “couldn’t be more relevant,” calling it “a perfect lens through which to view our current climate.”

Dunn joined the Williams faculty in 1973. Among her many books are “The Three Roosevelts” and “George Washington,” co-authored with James MacGregor Burns; “Dominion of Memories: Jefferson, Madison and the Decline of Virginia” and “Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light.”

Dunn received her B.A. from Smith College and her Ph.D. from Harvard. She is a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and holds an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Westfield State University.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted. To visit the college on the