The Presidents: History's Judgment

When TIME asked nine presidential historians to rank, from best to worst, the 17 American Presidents of the 20th century, we left some questions to their discretion: What do we expect from our leaders? Are effective Presidents also the most significant ones? What constitutes greatness? Here is our panel's consensus:

1 FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Term: 1933-45

Chief accomplishments: Rescued country from Depression; led U.S. through its greatest foreign war

Biggest blunder: Tried to "pack" the Supreme Court in 1937

Historians' comments: "Changed the landscape of American life"; "In a class by himself"; "Indisputably the century's greatest"

2 THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Term:...

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