Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Lessons of the New Deal: Did President Obama Learn the Right Ones? (28 January 2016)

Aldous Huxley wrote 'That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach'.

When Professor Tony Badger comes to Bath for our first lecture of 2016 his subject will be The Lessons of the New Deal: Did President Obama Learn the Right Ones? When Franklin D Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in 1932 he faced an economic crisis of unprecedented severity. What characterised Roosevelt's approach to it was his humanity and his willingness to innovate and to improvise in order to test what would work in the circumstances. Roosevelt was an outstanding communicator and a shrewd political operator.

Barack Obama's presidency began in January 2009, soon after the collapse of Lehman Brothers bank and during a very sharp decline in stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange. Toxic debt was causing the foreclosure of many thousands of mortgages. Business were facing bankruptcy or laying off workers.

Roosevelt was re-elected three times and Obama was given a second term by the American people. Did the similarity of the challenges faced by the two men lead to a similarity of approach? Had Obama learnt the lessons of history?

Tony Badger is a leading specialist in American political history. Until 2014 he was the Mellon Professor of History at the University of Cambridge and Master of Clare College. His book FDR: The First Hundred Days (Hill & Wang, 2008) was widely acclaimed. Among his other publications The New Deal: The Depression Years 1933-1940 (Palgrave Macmillan, 1989) has particular relevance to his lecture on 28 January.

I will be publishing details in January of a members' visit to Bath Record Office on Thursday 10 March. The evening visit will begin with an introductory talk by Colin Johnson, Principal Archivist, and will be followed by a tour of the archives.

Finally, let's end with a somewhat gloomy thought from George Santayana: 'Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it'.

Mike Short