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The New Deal: Expanding Government in Time of Need
Content Session Materials

Theme: American Political Thought: The Constitution and American Democratic Institutions
Topic: The New Deal: Expanding Government in Time of Need
Date: December 1, 2005
Scholar: Matthew Masur, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of History, St. Anselm College

Overview | Required Reading | Reading Questions

Materials selected and syllabus compiled by Matthew Masur, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of History, St. Anselm College.


The New Deal is recognized as a watershed in American history. It was, for better or worse, the beginning of “big government” in America. In the midst of the greatest crisis since the American Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt initiated a broad range of federal programs to alleviate poverty and address the flaws that led to the depression. This seminar will explore the range of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, particularly as they related to the expansion of executive and federal power in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Conkin, Paul K. The New Deal, 3rd ed. Harlan Davidson, 1992.

Gorvine, Harold. “The New Deal in Massachusetts.” In The New Deal vol. 2: The State and  Local Levels, ed. John Braeman, Robert H. Bremner and David Brody, 3-44. Ohio State University Press, 1975.


Editorial, The New York Herald-Tribune, February 6, 1937. In Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Supreme Court, ed. Alfred Haines Cope and Fred Krinsky, 27. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1952.

Browse WPA posters at:

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The historiography of the New Deal raises several questions that we will address in the seminar:

Were Roosevelt’s New Deal programs a departure from federal government activities before 1933? How?

What were the most important New Deal programs? How did they change the role of the federal government in America?

How did Americans respond to Roosevelt’s programs? Who supported the New Deal and who opposed it?

How have historians assessed Roosevelt’s presidency and the New Deal, and how have these assessments changed over time?


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