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Oscar Handlin insists that historical truth is absolute and knowable by historians who adopt the scientific method of research to discover factual evidence that provides both a chronology and context for their findings. William McNeill argues that historical truth is general and evolutionary and is discerned by different groups at different times and in different places in a subjective manner that has little to do with a scientifically absolute methodology.
Matthew Josephson depicts John D. Rockefeller as an unconscionable manipulator who employed a policy of deception, bribery, and outright conspiracy to restrain free trade in order to eliminate his competitors for control of the oil industry in the United States. Ron Chernow recognizes that Rockefeller was guilty of misdeeds that were endemic among both small and large corporate leaders of the industrial age, but he concludes that some of the most egregious claims attributed to Rockefeller were without merit and often represented actions taken by Standard Oil associates without Rockefeller's knowledge.
Professor of history Carl N. Degler maintains that the American labor movement accepted capitalism and reacted conservatively to the radical organizational changes brought about in the economic system by big business. Professor of history Herbert G. Gutman argues that from 1843 to 1893, American factory workers attempted to humanize the system through the maintenance of their traditional, artisian, preindustrial work habits.
Elaine Tyler May, a professor of American studies and history, argues that the Industrial Revolution in the United States, with its improved technology, increasing income, and emerging consumerism, led to higher rates of divorce because family wage earners failed to meet rising expectations for material accumulation. History professors Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Robert Korstad, and James Leloudis contend that the cotton mill villages of the New South, rather than destroying family work patterns, fostered a labor system that permitted parents and children to work together as a traditional family unit.
Professor of political science and political economy Ernest S. Griffith (1896–1981) focuses upon illegal and unethical operations of the political machine and concludes that the governments controlled by the bosses represented a betrayal of the public trust. Professor of history Jon C. Teaford argues that scholars traditionally have overlooked the remarkable success that municipal governments in the late nineteenth century achieved in dealing with the challenges presented by rapid urbanization.
Professor of history Christine Stansell contends that women on the Great Plains are separated from friends and relatives and consequently endured lonely lives and loveless marriages. Professor of history Glenda Riley argues that women on the Great Plaines created rich and varied social lives through the development of strong support networks.
Journalist W. A. Swanberg argues that newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst used the sensational and exploitative stories in his widely circulated New York Journal to stir up public opinion and to force President William McKinley to wage a war against Spain to free Cuba. Historian David Nasaw maintains that even if Hearst had not gone into publishing, the United States would have entered the war for political, economic, and security reasons.
Professor of history Howard N. Rabinowitz suggests that racial segregation represented an improvement in the lives of African Americans in that it provided access to a variety of public services and accommodations from which they otherwise would have been excluded in the late-nineteenth-century South. Professor of American history Leon F. Litwack argues that “the age of Jim Crow,” wherein efforts by whites to deny African Americans equal protection of the laws or the privileges and immunities guaranteed other citizens seemingly knew no bounds, created a highly repressive environment for blacks.
Professor of history Richard M. Abrams maintains that progressivism was a failure because it never seriously confronted the inequalities that still exist in American society. Professors of history Arthur S. Link and Richard L. McCormick argue that the Progressives were a diverse group of reformers who confronted and ameliorated the worst abuses that emerged in urban industrial America during the early 1900s.
David E. Kyvig admits that alcohol consumption declined sharply in the prohibition era but that federal actions failed to impose abstinence among an increasingly urban and heterogeneous populace that resented and resisted restraints on their individual behavior. John C. Burnham states that the prohibition experiment was more a success than a failure and contributed to a substantial decrease in liquor consumption, reduced arrests for alcoholism, fewer alcohol-related diseases and hospitalizations, and destroyed the old-fashioned saloon that was a major target of the law's proponents.
Historian and editor of Laissez-Faire books Jim Powell argues that "the New Deal itself, with its short-sighted programs... deepened the Great Depression, swelled the federal government, and prevented the country from turning around quickly." Professor of history Roger Biles contends that, in spite of it minimal reforms and non-revolutionary programs, the New Deal created a limited welfare state that implemented economic stabilizers to avert another depression.
Retired rear admiral Robert A. Theobald argues that President Franklin D. Roosevelt deliberately withheld information from the commanders at Pearl Harbor in order to encourage the Japanese to make a surprise attack on the weak U.S. Pacific Fleet. Historian Roberta Wohlstetter contends that even though naval intelligence broke the Japanese code, conflicting signals and the lack of a central agency coordinating U.S. intelligence information made it impossible to predict the Pearl Harbor attack.
History professors John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr argue that army code-breakers during World War II's “Venona Project” uncovered a disturbing number of high-ranking U.S. government officials who seriously damaged American interests by passing sensitive information to the Soviet Union. Professor of history Richard M. Fried argues that the early 1950s were a “nightmare in red” during which American citizens had their First and Fifth Amendment rights suspended when a host of national and state investigating committees searched for Communists in government agencies, Hollywood, labor unions, foundations, universities, public schools, and even public libraries.
Peter Irons argues that, despite evidence that integration improves the status of African Americans, the school integration prescribed by the Brown decision was never seriously tried, with the consequence that major gaps between white and black achievement persist and contribute to many of the social problems confronting African Americans today. Richard Kluger concludes that fifty years after the Brown decision, African Americans are better educated, better housed, and better employed than they were before 1954 in large part because the Supreme Court's ruling spawned the modern civil rights movement that culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and many programs of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society that were designed to improve the status of African Americans.
Professor of history Brian VanDeMark argues that President Lyndon Johnson failed to question the viability of increasing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War becuase he was a prisoner of America's global containment policy. H.R. McMaster, an active-duty army tanker, maintains that the Vietnam disaster was not inevitable but a uniquely human failure whose repsonsibilitity was shared by Preisdent Johnson and his principal advisers.
Professor of history John Lewis Gaddis argues that President Ronald Reagan combined a policy of militancy and operational pragmatism to bring about the most significant improvement in Soviet-American relations since the end of World War II. Professors of political science Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry contend that the cold war ended only when Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev accepted Western liberal values and the need for global cooperation.
Social scientist Tamar Jacoby maintains that the newest immigrants keep America's economy strong because they work harder and take jobs that native-born Americans reject. Syndicated columnist Patrick J. Buchanan aruges that America is no longer a nation because immigrants from Mexico and other Third World Latin American and Asian countries have turned America into a series of fragmented multicultural ethnic enclaves that lack a common culture.
Otis L. Graham, Jr., a professor emeritus of history, maintains that the status of the biophysical basis of our economies, such as "atmospheric pollution affecting global climate, habitat destruction, [and] species extinction," is negative and in some cases irreversible in the long run. Associate professor of statistics Bjorn Lomborg argues that the doomsday scenario for earth has been exaggerated and that, according to almost every measurable indicator, mankind's lot has improved.