War and Presidential Greatness

Independent Review 17:4, 2013

20 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012 Last revised: 29 Aug 2013

See all articles by David Henderson

David Henderson

Naval Postgraduate School

Zachary Gochenour

James Madison University - Economics Program

Date Written: March 26, 2012


Historians and journalists commonly survey other historians on the relative 'greatness' of American presidents, and these rankings show remarkable consistency between surveys. In this paper we consider commonalities between highly ranked presidents and compare plausible determinants of greatness according to historians. We find that a strong predictor of greatness is the fraction of American lives lost in war during a president’s tenure. We find this predictor to be robust and compare favorably to other predictors used in previous historical research. We discuss potential reasons for this correlation and conclude with a discussion of how historians’ views might affect policy.

Keywords: American history, presidency, American economic history

JEL Classification: N4, H56

Suggested Citation

Henderson, David and Gochenour, Zachary, War and Presidential Greatness (March 26, 2012). Independent Review 17:4, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2029774 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2029774

David Henderson

Naval Postgraduate School ( email )

555 Dyer Road
Monterey, CA 93943
United States

Zachary Gochenour (Contact Author)

James Madison University - Economics Program ( email )

United States

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