Freidel, Frank Burt | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Freidel, Frank Burt

Historical Note:

Frank Burt Freidel (1916-93) was professor of history (1949-53) at the University of Illinois (UI). He was a renowned historian of American politics and was best known as a foremost biographer of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945).

Freidel was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 27, 1916. He spent his childhood in California, and he earned a bachelor's degree (1937) and a master's degree (1939) from the University of Southern California. Working under William B. Hesseltine, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin (1942) with a dissertation on 19th-century jurist Francis Lieber. Freidel held a number of teaching positions, including Shurtleff College (1941), University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, Vassar College, UI (1949-53), and Stanford University (1953-55). He joined the faculty at Harvard University in 1955, becoming Charles Warren Professor of History in 1972. Freidel's major work was his five-volume biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which includes The Apprenticeship (1952), The Ordeal (1954), The Triumph (1956), F. D. R. and the South (1965), and Launching the New Deal (1973) as well as the condensed, single-volume work Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny (1990). After retiring from Harvard in 1981, Freidel accepted the Bullitt Professorship of History at the University of Washington (1981-86). Over the course of his career, he also served as President of the New England Historical Association (1966-67), a member of the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee (1973­-76), and as President of the Organization of American Historians (1975-76). Freidel was elected to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1959 and was recognized with the Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities in 1964.

Freidel was married to Elisabeth Margo (m. 1938; d. 1955) and Madeleine Bicskey (m. 1956), and he had a total of eight children. He died in 1993, before he was able to complete the sixth volume of his Roosevelt's biography.


Wikipedia, s.v. "Frank Freidel," accessed May 21, 2020,

Eric Pace, "Frank Freidel, Biographer of F.D.R., Is Dead at 76," New York Times, January 26, 1993, accessed May 21, 2020,

Donald Fleming, "Frank Freidel," Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 105, third series (1993): 169-171. Accessed May 21, 2020,

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