A Companion to Theodore Roosevelt. Edited by Serge Ricard. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 584 pp.
A Companion to Woodrow Wilson. Edited by Ross A. Kennedy. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 634 pp.
Wiley-Blackwell not only designed its well-received Companions to American History for academics who specialize in one of the topics featured in their growing number of volumes, it has also made each edited work accessible for students at the beginning of a research project. This is especially true of its presidential subseries that includes recent volumes shrewdly edited by Serge Ricard and Ross A. Kennedy on Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, respectively, two chief executives who presided over the nation at a time of momentous change. As stand-alone volumes, there are few criticisms. While neither volume is a comprehensive treatment, due to page limitations, Ricard and Kennedy have assembled an impressive group of clearly written and well-researched essays, including a number of chapters with interdisciplinary and international perspectives on the education, rise in politics, intellectual influences, leadership strategies, economic, military, diplomatic, and social/cultural policies, and postpresidential activities, before ending with each president's historical legacy. Both also feature biographical overviews, cutting-edge research by established scholars and a new generation of historians, thorough historiographies, impressive bibliographies, and suggestions for further research, but do so with varying emphasis. A timeline of the significant events during each administration would have been a helpful addition. Overall, however, the structure of the two volumes is of the same stellar quality of the other volumes in the series.
When the Roosevelt and Wilson volumes are considered together, however, it is clear that the editors approached their tasks with a different target audience in mind. Ricard chose to produce a better story for the student in need of a clear narrative by minimizing some of the critical assessments of Roosevelt. The expert, therefore, will be somewhat dissatisfied with his overly laudatory treatment of the twenty-sixth president as "truly exceptional" and made "of the stuff heroes are made" (p. 521). Kennedy, who claims in his conclusion that Wilson "left a contested legacy and disputed reputation," appeals more to the specialist who already knows the basic facts and instead seeks a detailed historiographical...