Friday, April 8, 2011

Do you think Truman handled well the entrance of the United States into the Cold War? Or do you think Roosevelt would have made different/better decisions?

It is doubted that Roosevelt could have preserved the Grand Alliance any better than Truman. Although Truman was less experienced in foreign policy than Roosevelt, the failure to handle this situation did not come from the American president, but from Stalin’s determination to follow up his plans no matter what. Roosevelt was already very ill at Yalta and could not keep up with Stalin even in theory. The problem of democratic elections in Eastern Europe remained unresolved. Roosevelt hoped to satisfy Stalin’s demands through the UN, but even if Roosevelt had lived, the UN was established too late to do anything. When the Yalta Conference occurred, Poland was already occupied and Stalin was speeding up the “Sovietization” of the Eastern European countries. During the so-called free elections held in Eastern Europe, the observers sent by the Western nations witnessed powerlessly what was happening. The Allies had no resources anymore to start a new war with a Russia that occupied half of Europe and arrived in Berlin before them. Europe was crushed by four years of war, while America was devastated by a war on two fronts and did not have anymore the resources to pursue a new conflict with more than uncertain outcomes. With the Bolsheviks’ clear ideological objective to world widely export the socialist revolution, neither Roosevelt nor anyone else would have been able to stop Stalin, hence the development of the Cold War.

Henretta, James A, and David Brody. “America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877.” 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 769

Why was the United States unable to avoid entering a Cold War with the Soviet Union?

The Cold War was mainly a conflict for world supremacy. After the World War II, only two world superpowers stood up, each with its own political and economical ideology, and strategic interest, and a conflict between them was unavoidable. This competition was the fuel of the Cold War and since none of the parts was willing to give up and take defeat, the conflict lasted as long as the two superpowers existed. As the Soviet Union began to assert its control in Eastern Europe, the expansion of communism became the main concern of the United States. The US Government feared that, as the Soviet power was growing, this could generate revolution in the Western European countries and the movement would eventually reach the American soil. The danger seemed even higher as communist parties already existed in the Western hemisphere. In the same time, to keep total control, the communist states were isolated from the rest of the world (from where the term of Iron Curtain). This isolation increased the worry of the US government.

The Cold War was rooted in the fear of communism. To avoid this possibility, the United States took measures to block the expansion of the communist ideology. This odd sort of war was opened not by a cannon shot, but by a well known discourse. The speech delivered by Winston Churchill in 1946 in the town of Fulton, Missouri, drew attention to the danger that Western democracies were on the verge of being swallowed up by communism, and suggested a close Anglo-American alliance to defend their interests. The blackmail of the atomic bomb could not serve anymore at that time especially since the Soviets already had this weapon. And since the offensive was not recommended, the chosen alternative was the defensive. In 1947 President Truman, concerned about the security of Greece and Turkey, announced the Truman Doctrine. The U.S. agreed to support the free nations’ fight against the attempts of subjugation. This meant that the U.S. would act to restrain the expansion of communism.

Constantiniu, Florin. From the hot to the cold war. Bucharest, Romania: Corint, 1998, 111-120

Henretta, James A, and David Brody. “America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877.” 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 766-775

In what ways can the prosperity of the 1950's be explained by the Cold War?

The 1950s economic growth in the United States was owed primarily to the Bretton Woods system encouraging stable prices, less tariffs, flexible markets, and the defense spending. The Cold War brought a state of permanent mobilization and therefore the necessity of increasing the national security. As a consequence, defense-related industries, science and research in aviation and space experienced a significant development, creating a lot of jobs – one worker in seven owed his job to the military industry. Federal money covered most of the research costs, offering corporations like IBM the possibility on researching the integrated circuits which brought the computer revolution, and later the high definition television, audio-video players and many other electronic gadgets. The United States’ GPD more than doubled during the 1950s, bringing a 25 percent rise in the individual income of the working Americans.

As a Space Studies major student, I would also like to mention that the huge development in the space exploration is also owned mainly to the Cold War. The competition between the United States and the Soviet Union culminated with putting a man on the moon in 1969. The very expensive space flights imposed the development of computer sciences for supplying the necessary equipment. Since the more equipment was added, more fuel was needed, and the research for miniaturization, later resulting in the existence of the mobile phone or computer laptop. We also owe the existence of the GPS system to the same era of the Cold War. Developed for military purposes, the GPS was declassified by President Reagan and became a commonly used tool.

It is fair to say that the achievements determined by the Cold War have affected all fields.

Henretta, James A, and David Brody. “America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877.” 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 797

Describe Keynesian economic policies. How important were they to the New Deal?

The term of Keynesian economics has its origins in the theories advocated by the visionary British economist John Maynard Keynes. Known as the father of modern economics, Keynes’ idea for recession was that the central bank should expand the money supplies, regaining people’s confidence in spending and regenerating the money flow, curing the recession. As far as depressions were concerned, Keynes considered them to be recessions fallen into a liquidity trap - people refusing to spend money despite the expansion of the money supply by the central bank. In such situations Keynes advised the central bank to spend.

President Roosevelt initially dismissed Keynes’ ideas for curing the economy. However, in order to restore the vitality of the New Deal by bringing the economy back on course, the President introduced a spending program. Despite the Congress’ cuts on the WPA’s budget, the President reversed the course of the recession by increasing the WPA funds and resuming public works projects, driving the country out of the recession.

Henretta, James A, and David Brody. “America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877.” 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 714.

King, John Edward. A history of post Keynesian economics since 1936. Cheltenham, UK: Edgar Elgar Publishing, 2002.

Do you think WWI could have been prevented?

Although almost a century passed since the First World War, some historians are still wondering if the conflict could have been prevented. When the war erupted in 1914 nothing could have prevented the world conflagration. If there was ever a moment prevention was possible it would have been in the 19th century. The dawn of the 20th century dragged with it unresolved problems from the previous century. Although at that time Europe still dominated the world, captive nations still exited, subdued by the multinational empires. Most of the European nations did not solve yet their national problems at that time, being assimilated and forced to denationalization. This situation extended until the war started in 1914 and was temporarily resolved at the end of it in 1918. The conflict between the big European powers however was of course a consequence of concrete issues, such as the domination of the continent, the control of some vital regions of the world, the expansion and preservation of the colonial empires, the control and access to resources of various kinds, aggravation of the national ego in regard to the enemy’s etc. But beyond the many causes and conditions, the catastrophe became inevitable because of the exacerbated, outward oriented nationalism that caused hate and phobia between nations.

Manole, Gica. The First World War: A Long-Waited Conflict, 2010. (February 1, 2011). Electronic resource retrieved from

What were the causes of World War I? What made it a “world” war?

The causes that lead to the First World War were complex, and to follow their development, we need to look at the second half 19th century and early 20th century: the European nationalist spirit during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the political and economic rivalry between the states, the excessive arming after 1871 and the two hostile military alliances. Leading to the World War I - imperialism, nationalism, militarism, and defense alliances - was an accumulation of facts and event; however, the immediate cause was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife The Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by Bosnian Slaves recruited by Serbian terrorists. Austro-Hungary blamed Serbia and declared war. The assassination in Sarajevo was only the pretense or the alleged reason of the war; the causes of this first global conflict were much deeper: economic competition, imperialism and nationalism.

At the end of the 19th century the problem of nationalism in many parts of Europe was unresolved, leading to strained relations between the regions involved and various European countries. The nationalist spirit was also manifested in the economic conflict. At the dawn of the 20th century, Europe was the most powerful region in the world. European colonial empires ruled over most of the world, and due to the Industrial Revolution, Europe was the richest, generating the need of a larger market for goods. The main field of economic development was Africa, and colonial interests in this area have clashed several times since 1898; the economic rivalry in Africa between Germany on one side, and England and France, on the other side, was slowly bringing Europe on the break of war.

As a result of these tensions, between 1871 and 1914 European countries have adopted measures that have increased the domestic and external threat of war. Convinced that their interests were threatened, European powers maintained a huge army.

As tension was mounting in Europe, the contradictions between the great powers increased, and the armed conflict for dividing the world power became inevitable. The major powers pursued a foreign policy of expansionism and conquest in search of new sources of raw materials and markets for goods. England occupied colonies in Africa and Asia, while France took possession of some countries in the same area. Russia occupied territories in Iran and China, generating the armed conflict between the two Asian countries. Germany and Italy were after the redistribution of their colonies in the developing countries and desired to strengthen their positions by all means possible, in regard to Russia, France, Great Britain and the Austria-Hungary Empire. Germany’s tendency to become the largest military power and to break Britain's naval supremacy caused great tension between the two countries. This lead to the division of the world powers into two blocs: the Central Powers’ Triple Alliance (Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy), and the Triple Entente (France, England and Russia). The Triple Alliance had as purpose was mutual aid in case of a Russian attack. The Triple Entente was a deterrent to the Triple Alliance and was part of France’s plan to surround Germany. Militant nationalism and the national issue turned into the Balkan area into a real powder keg ready to ignite at the slightest spark. With the Moroccan Crisis and Balkan wars, where Austria-Hungary and Russia were competing for power, peace was threatened and Europe was on the verge of war: this was the spark to ignite the conflict. The outbreak of war in July 1914 between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente marked the unequal political and economic development in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. England and France, old industrial countries with large colonial empires were overcome by countries like Germany and the United States, experiencing a strong industrial development.

On 8 May 1915, a German U-boat sank the British luxury liner ‘Lusitania’, killing 128 Americans, prompting President Wilson to reconsider the United States position towards the war. In April 1917 Wilson declared war on Germany, entering the world conflagration on the Entente side.

The World War I was a “world” war because major nations of the world are involved, affecting many countries on various continents.

Allan, Tony. The Causes of World War I. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2003.

Cojan, Vincent. World War I: A Military Timeline. Bucharest, Romania: The Didactic and Pedagogic Publishers, 1997.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 640-644

What did Theodore Roosevelt mean when he said the US should be the 'policemen' of the Caribbean?

In his annual message to Congress in December 1904 President Roosevelt announced the world that the Unites States will act as the “policeman” of the Caribbean. The president’s reaction came to counter the interference of the Europeans into the Caribbean affairs. This was the so-called Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine was issued in 1902 when British, German and Italian gunboats blocked the Venezuelan ports because the Venezuelan Government did not pay its foreign debts. The Monroe Doctrine sought to prevent this kind of European interference into the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

President Roosevelt reformulated the Doctrine to vindicate the United States “international police power” to put an end to the political unrest in the Caribbean. This change in policy was necessary to avoid the European interference in the Caribbean with the excuse of collecting international debts, but with the real scope of keeping their presence in the area and eventually occupying the territories. The probability of such actions was worrying the American government, in a time when the United States was involved in the construction of the Panama Canal, and defensive interests required the area stayed under American control. President Roosevelt’s foreign policy was “walk softly, but carry a big stick”, and justified the United States intervention in the Caribbean, whenever necessary.

The response to the Roosevelt Corollary was generally favorable, and most Europeans were content with having the United States collecting their debts, with the exception of the British who considered the world should be cautious as the Americans were becoming conceited.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 627.

United States History. World Affairs, December 6, 1904. (January 22, 2011). Electronic resource retrieved from

United States National Archives and Records Administration. Our documents: 100 milestone documents from the National Archives. (January 22, 2011). Electronic resource retrieved from

What was the role of the railroads in the settlement of the Great West?

"Railroad iron is a magician's rod in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). By 1860 it became obvious the railroad was to become the mode of transportation of the industrial America, meeting the transportation needs of a maturing economy. However, the railroad was not only transportation means, but also a new technology vouching to change the world by shaping the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest. Its completion in 1869 laid the basis of economic exploitation of the Great Plains, stimulated the economic growth of the Union, increasing the settlers’ population and the jobs, while forever changing the life of the Native Americans living here. The railroads linked the newly acquired Pacific territories to the Union.

The railroads brought the West into the world and the world to the West. In the words of the Washington Territory governor Marshall F. Moore, the railroads were a “vast machinery for the building up of empires”. They transformed the West into a permanent extension of the modern world, bringing thousands of immigrants and changing the structure of human population in the area, promoting a large scale mining, ranching, agriculture, and the building of bridges, tunnels, depots, roundhouses etc. The presence of depots, for example, allowed the distribution of the latest newspapers and long distance mail. The prairies were plowed and transformed into farmland, and new plants were introduced.

The changes brought by the railroads happened very fast. They were of course harsh on the native population, disturbing their settlements and their activities, such as the buffalo hunting, and increasing the count of the white people in the area. However, these changes were positive for the new nation of the United States.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 471, 497-499.

Orsi, Richard J. The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.

Schwantes, Carlos A., Ronda, James P. The West the Railroads Made. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2008

Why was Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which was strictly about biology, important in the development of the ideology of conservatism?

Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of the Species”, published in 1859, brought to light the idea of humans evolved from simpler forms of life through the process of “natural selection." Darwin’s theory was to become the foundation of modern biological science.

“Natural selection” in Charles Darwin’s words, or “the survival of the fittest” – in Herbert Spencer’s words, reflect the roots of the conservativism movement in America. While these are words expressed by scientists, originating in Darwin’s evolution theory promoted in his work “On the Origin of Species”, the conservative American thought was based on a quite similar idea, the so called “Social Darwinism”, advocated by William Graham Sumner. A sociology professor, Sumner promoted competition as a law of nature, with the ‘fittest’ rising above others, while the success of the society depended on the process of “natural selection”. Sumner considered “the millionaires “to be the fittest, selected individuals in the society. Social Darwinism explained the competitive American economy, rejecting any interference with social processes.

While giving a talk to the textile workers in Providence, Rhode Island, the cotton manufacturer Edward Atkinson defined “the survival of the fittest” as it pertains to society: a person will rise as far as his talents allow, and would receive his reward accordingly, while his success as an individual contributes to the success of the society as a whole. This idea continued to be promoted through various works, such as Horatio Alger’s tales “Thoughts for the Young Men of America”, “A Few Practical Words of Advice to Those Born in Poverty and Denied to be reared in Orphanages” (1871), or Andrew Carnegie’s best seller “Triumphant Democracy” (1886). The Episcopal Bishop William Lawrence of Massachusetts also preached the idea of success as an individual’s earthly calling, promising the eternal salvation as a reward: “godliness is in league with riches” was Lawrence’s version of “the survival of the fittest”.

John D. Rockefeller claimed the fortune he accumulated was "merely a survival of the fittest, ... the working out of a law of nature and a law of God." Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the gap between rich and poor, for rejecting social insurance and supporting tax cuts for the rich, for allowing ‘robber barons’ to control most of the American industry, or politicians to be bought off by the rich, etc.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 556-557

Reich, Robert B. Of Darwinism and Social Darwinism. Published on 11/ 29/2005 by 01/10/2010.

Explain why there were no major witchcraft scares in the Chesapeake colonies and no uprising like Bacon's Rebellion in New England. Consider the possible social, economic, and religious causes of both phenomena.

There were major dissimilarities between the Chesapeake and New England colonies, because of the different reasons the colonists came to America. The New England colonists were pious Puritan yeoman living in self-governing farming communities. They came to America in search of religious freedom and therefore were devoted religious families. Their society was religious based family oriented, relying on fishing and farming on small scale, considering themselves to be “far more godly than all other colonists”. These facts explain why New England had the witchcraft scares and no rebellions like the Bacon's Rebellion. On the other hand, the Chesapeake colonists came to America in search of gold, silver, or anything else that could result into profit. They raised tobacco and corn for export to Europe and their crops prospered. Economy affected the overall population, made in majority of black slaves working the plantations, and therefore religion was less severe in the Chesapeake colonies. The main church was the Anglican Church and many people did not participate at all in the religious activities. These facts explain why Chesapeake had the Bacon's Rebellion and no witchcraft scares.


Henretta, James A, and David Brody, America: A Concise History, Volume I: To
1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 43-63

Murrin , John M., Johnson, Paul E., McPherson, James M., Gerstle, Gary, Liberty,
Equality, Power: A History of the American People, Compact, Boston: Thomson
Wadsworth, 2008, 95

Weigh the relative importance of the Industrial and Market revolutions in changing the American economy. In what ways was the economy different in 1860 from what it had been in 1800? How would you explain those differences?

By 1800, the American economy was predominantly agrarian. This changed dramatically by 1860 with the Industrial and Market revolutions. New industrial machines allowed the industrialist to produce more goods, faster, and therefore more manpower was needed. A market economy was born. New jobs were created in the Northern states, while the Southern ones encountered the expansion of slavery. The influence of the Industrial and Market revolution in the South was reflected in the mass production of cotton, required for the textile industry in the North. The strong industrialization had as consequence the people’s migration from rural areas to the cities, and also a significant increase in population, as living standards improved. But the Industrial Revolution had also a negative impact on the working class, who were living in overcrowded and unsanitary houses and had difficult working conditions. Overall, the Industrial and Market Revolution was an important turning point in the American history and had as consequence the change from an agricultural and rural society into an industrial and urban one.

In 1860, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched in the United States; by 1865, it was dead. How did this happen? How did Union policy toward slavery and enslaved people change over the course of the war? Why did it change?

The change in slavery started in November 1860 with the Republican victory in the elections, an immediate danger to the slave owning republic in existence since 1776. The Republican Party and Lincoln – who did not win a single vote in the South, vowed to prevent the extension of slavery. To save the black slavery and the supremacy of white men, radical Southerners chose secession, while Northerners believed that the collapse of
Union will destroy the possibility of a democratic republican government. This resulted in the Civil War, finally leading to the end of slavery in the United States. Antislavery Republicans asked that the goal of the war should be abolition of slavery and restoration of the Union; the war should continue “until the Slave power is completely subjugated, and emancipation made certain.” Lincoln first rejected emancipation as a goal of the war;  he never thought of putting an end to slavery. But numerous slave escapes in the South burdened the president. The Union’s fate was at stake and Lincoln’s major commitment was to save the Union. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it,” the president stated, “and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it.” In the light of these events, Lincoln finally surrendered to the pressure of antislavery republicans, making the Civil War to mainly be about slavery, and seeing the abolition as a way to end the rebellion and preserve the Union. The president drafted a general proclamation of emancipation in July 1862, laying the foundation for the destruction of slavery. The proclamation was issued on September 22, basing its legal authority on his responsibility to suppress the rebellion and was signed by Lincoln on January 1, 1863. Right after the war, abolitionists were worried that the Emancipation Proclamation, being based on the Lincoln’s wartime powers, would lose its force post bellum. Pushed by the president and the National Equal Rights League, on January 1865 the Congress approved the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery, and sent it to the states for ratification.


Henretta, James A, and David Brody, America: A Concise History, Volume I: To
1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 407-431

Slavery In The Civil War Era, 08/26/2010,

The narrative suggests that the war for American independence was not inevitable, that the British empire could have been saved. Do you agree? At what point during the imperial crisis was peaceful compromise possible?

After the war for American Independence, John Adams claimed that the Americans were considering independence long before the war that started in 1775. He suggested that the American independence was inevitable, but this was not the case. After the seven years French and Indian War, the American colonies celebrated Britain’s victory. Since the colonies have supported Britain during the French and Indian War, their expectations were of support. As a result of the Great War for Empire, Britain has won from France its North American colonies at a considerable expense and faced an enormous post-war debt. Since the British people were already over-burdened with taxes, the Government found a good source of revenue in the American colonies. But Britain’s attitude toward the American colonies was not one of care, or of asking for help, but rather one of exploitation. The colonists were considered inferior, never equal to the British, and they were used as a source of revenue. In the same time, King George III passed the Proclamation Line, keeping the colonists out of the new acquired lands, prohibiting Anglo-American settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. If any chance of avoiding the conflict would have presented itself, it should have been if Britain’s attitude towards the colonies would have improved right after the French and Indian War and none of the taxation acts (like the Stamp Act for example) would have been issued. “ was the actions of British ministers which made independence first a possibility and then a likelihood”. (Cogliano, Francis D)

Cogliano, Francis D., Was the American Revolution Inevitable? British History in-depth, 08/26/2010, (2009)

How would you explain the large and expanding domestic trade in slaves between 1800 and 1860? What combination of factors produced this result?

As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the production increased significantly after 1800. Especially the textile industry had a boost at that time and more and more cotton supplies were required. While the Northern States were industrialized and produced the textiles, the Southern States were the main cotton suppliers, but still relying on slaves for the cotton production. Cotton changed the course of the American economic and racial future. The cotton crops increased considerably; and by 1840, the South was producing and exporting over 2/3 of the world’s cotton, giving the region strong economic power. The large needs of raw materials determined the Southern plantation owners to look for more manpower in slaves. Since the slave import has been restricted, slaves became even more valuable generating the so-called “mania for buying negroes”, The domestic trade in slaves became the best resource. White planters started looking for new slaves in the upper South states, and between 1800 and 1860, the domestic slave trade emerged as a crucial commercial enterprise operating through two systems: the coastal one and the inland one. The coastal system sent slaves to the sugar plantations in Louisiana, whereas the inland one to the cotton plantations. The coastal system was very apparent and provided the slaves required by the expansion towards the West, yet another reason for the extended manpower requirement. The domestic slave trade was crucial for the prosperity of the southern economy, and it was an important resource to raise money, straightening the economy of the Upper South.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume I: To 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 349-353