The Patriarch

The Patriarch

The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

Book - 2012
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2013 Pulitzer Prize Finalist
New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012

"Riveting... The Patriarch is a book hard to put down." - Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review

In this magisterial new work The Patriarch , the celebrated historian David Nasaw tells the full story of Joseph P. Kennedy, the founder of the twentieth century's most famous political dynasty. Nasaw--the only biographer granted unrestricted access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library--tracks Kennedy's astonishing passage from East Boston outsider to supreme Washington insider. Kennedy's seemingly limitless ambition drove his career to the pinnacles of success as a banker, World War I shipyard manager, Hollywood studio head, broker, Wall Street operator, New Deal presidential adviser, and founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His astounding fall from grace into ignominy did not come until the years leading up to and following America's entry into the Second World War, when the antiwar position he took as the first Irish American ambassador to London made him the subject of White House ire and popular distaste.

The Patriarch is a story not only of one of the twentieth century's wealthiest and most powerful Americans, but also of the family he raised and the children who completed the journey he had begun. Of the many roles Kennedy held, that of father was most dear to him. The tragedies that befell his family marked his final years with unspeakable suffering.

The Patriarch looks beyond the popularly held portrait of Kennedy to answer the many questions about his life, times, and legacy that have continued to haunt the historical record. Was Joseph P. Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? What was the nature of his relationship with his wife, Rose? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him?

In this pioneering biography, Nasaw draws on never-before-published materials from archives on three continents and interviews with Kennedy family members and friends to tell the life story of a man who participated in the major events of his times: the booms and busts, the Depression and the New Deal, two world wars and a cold war, and the birth of the New Frontier. In studying Kennedy's life, we relive with him the history of the American Century.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, c2012.
ISBN: 9781594203763
Characteristics: xxiv, 868 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill., ports. ;,25 cm.


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Dec 20, 2013

I thought this was a sensational book. It's extraordinary how influential Joe Kennedy was in major times of the 20th century.

He was ruthless in his investing but he knew how to make money and then how to get out before losing everything in the crash.

He was such an influential banker that Roosevelt placed him as the head of the SEC and he helped Roosevelt sell his policies to wall street -- a really important role.

Kennedy was also a very sophisticated PR guy. He had connections in the media and used them constantly...even to the point with Arthur Krock {sp?} at the NY Times who was on Kennedy's salary and continually wrote positive stories for him.

The author's description of Kennedy's time as an ambassador to England during the lead up to WW II and during it was the most fascinating part of the book. First, the perspective he had at the time was that England and all of Europe would lose to Hitler. Looking back it seems so striking. He wanted to cut a deal with Hitler, which is shocking in its own right. He was trying to avoid war, but his pessimism was outsized. He also was clearly anti-semitic, though I think his descriptions of how well organized the Jewish community was in pushing its interests were interesting.

So much great insight, this was a great book.

nudnik Dec 12, 2013

I decided to wade through this book since I had read one about Rose several years ago. The author says he wrote the book at the request of members of the Kennedy family so I expected a whitewash and was surprised to find that wasn't always the case. Of course there was no organized crime connection and Chappaquiddick never happened as it was never mentioned. But the focus is Joe who I must say so intrigued me that now I want to read other bios about him.

ChristchurchLib Nov 19, 2013

"Joseph P. Kennedy, father of nine children, including President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Edward, was himself a legend before his sons rose to high political office. In The Patriarch, historian and biographer David Nasaw depicts a man whose own political activities attracted both admiration and resentment; he considers various characterisations of Joseph Kennedy, Sr., such as his alleged anti-Semitism and accusations of bootlegging, and compares them to evidence in the actual records. Offering conclusions about the public aspects of the senior Kennedy's life, Nasaw also depicts a private man whose main concerns were the security of his family and guarding his private fortune." Biography and Memoir November 2013 newsletter

Nov 07, 2013

I read this book some time back, but thought it unworthy of comment. Before attacking this author, I should state that President Kennedy was the last real democrat in the White House (completely unlike the neocon administrations of Clinton and Obama) and anyone who studies his legislation and programs (before they were incredibly compromised after his murder) will understand what I mean when I state the JFK picked up FDR's torch! Must completely disagree with the author and his flimsy research, Joe Kennedy was a criminal mastermind of the first order, not simply a bootlegger, but in all probability the architect behind Prohibition, first either purchasing or strongarming his way (with the help of the Irish and Sicilian mobs) into a monpoly of distilleries and hooches, and bringing together other bankers (Joe was the youngest bank president in US history at that time) to finance the temperance parties and unions for passage of the Prohibition legislation in 1920. Joseph Kennedy flunked out of prep school and then, being the ultimate scammer, scammed his way into an academic scholarship at Harvard (one of his courses there covered how the vote was given to the women of Seattle in 1883, whereupon the Seattle ladies formed an anti-alcohol/saloon/brothel platform, successfully won, and almost brought Seattle to certain economic disaster. (Seattle's chief businesses then were its saloons and brothels, for gold miners enroute to Alaskan fields. Add to that later John Brainerd's marketing genius of adding Seattle as THE supply point to the miners! (Re: REI) The vote was later withdrawn from the women of Seattle, by the men petitioning the territorial governor. Perhaps that course at Harvard was the impetus for Kennedy's diabolical idea in using Prohibition to dramatically increase his fortunes? The author is exceedingly correct in his descriptions of Joe as being dedicated to his family, and so forth. [When the author falsely states there was nothing to link him, Joe Kennedy, to the Mafia, not only is he clearly incorrect, but anyone familiar with the hearings into organized crime in the unions (back in the late 1950s, believe they were called the Kefauver hearings?) recalls the number of organized crime types who asked Bobby Kennedy, who was part of those hearings and investigations, after his father, Joe, whom they all knew and knew well.]

Sep 16, 2013

Well researched and quite fascinating about Joe's early business adventures.

SMBE Feb 26, 2013

Very concise and informative but information overload & too much detail that makes this book very boring.

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