The Archive

Friday, March 4, 2011

Brits and the Presidents

Since Arthur Schlesinger Sr. headed the first one in 1948, presidential ranking surveys have been an American pastime. The Wall Street Journal, C-SPAN, Siena College, and others have held multiple surveys of historians (and political scientists and economists) to help identify the best and worst presidents. Unsurprisingly, however, such studies have been limited to organizations in the United States.

This changed in 2011. I had no idea that such a thing even existed, but within the U.K.'s "Institute for the Study of the Americas" is the "United States Presidency Centre." And more than 60 years since Schlesinger's first survey, the U.K. has gone Teddy and Taft on the American monopoly on presidential rankings. (Okay, those guys were more closely tied to the term "trust" rather than monopoly, and obviously nobody in the U.S. has actively suppressed British attempts at such surveys, but hopefully you can cut me some rhetorical slack.)

These ranking activities have always fascinated me. I've picked up the Ridings-McIver book on the subject and actually purchased--and even reviewed on Amazon--the relatively recent Felzenberg work on the subject. Wikipedia has a handy article that I occasionally check to see if there has been a recent study. (You may have surmised as such, but Wikipedia is where I learned of this 2011 study.)

The whole thing is ultimately unimportant but imminently interesting and compelling. Where does President Doe rank? Why is he ranked there? Do I agree or disagree with the rankings in general?

These are questions that I will attempt to answer in the coming days or weeks, specifically as related to this new survey from across the pond.

For now, here is the site of their results:

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