Williams Professor Awarded Adams Book Prize

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Susan Dunn
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Susan Dunn, the Preston S. Parish Third Century Professor of Arts and Humanities at Williams College, has been awarded the Adams Book Prize for her 2010 book, "Roosevelt's Purge: How FDR Fought to Change the Democratic Party" (Harvard University Press).

The prize, administered by the Society for History in the Federal Government, is given annually to an outstanding book on some area of federal government history.

"Roosevelt's Purge" tells the story of FDR’s unprecedented battle to drive conservative, anti-New Deal Democrats out of the 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.

In a review,The Wall Street Journal wrote "Ms. 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 who didn't like where he was taking the country and their party." 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 bachelor's degree from Smith College and her doctorate from Harvard. She is a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and holds an honorary doctorate of letters from Westfield State University.

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