The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the American Athlete

Diversion. Aug. 2019. 336p. notes. index. ISBN 9781635766127. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781635766110. HIST
Sports, according to Theodore Roosevelt, were a place where manhood’s mettle could be properly challenged. Swanson (history; Univ. of New Mexico’s Honors Coll.; When Baseball Went White) has examined these ideas meticulously, and here offers a window into the sporting culture that influenced Roosevelt’s life and vice versa. The term Strenuous Life is also the title of an 1899 Roosevelt speech in which the president was compelled to issue a warning that the forces of industrialization and urban living were weakening men. Echoes of this speech are certainly present today, and Swanson delves into how Roosevelt came to adopt this ideology before 1899 and how this thinking emerged in his presidential actions. These actions were both small, such as taking long walks with advisers, to more significant, such as convening a White House meeting on football safety. This history further investigates the rise of baseball, along with the Olympics and other cultural events that influenced Roosevelt.
VERDICT This work adds intriguing depth to Roosevelt histories. Highly recommended for cultural, presidential, and sport histories.
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