Cece Burger: War of 1812, US textbook description.

For this blog, I examined the U.S. textbook description of the War of 1812. The textbook is written by American historians who have authored many works on the American South, Civil War, early American politics and other related topics. The textbook’s preface asserts the value of the work explaining that “The American Promise is one of the most widely adopted texts for the U.S. history survey, reaching students at all levels and helping instructors…” The preface goes on to say the author’s aim is to create “a comprehensive, balanced account of American history… to engage students in the American story and portray fully the diversity of the American experience.” These statements seem encouraging in the pursuit of truthful historical account. However, as we have learned, complete objective history can’t really be attained and this textbook holds its own subjectivity and perspectives.

The description of the War of 1812 begins with the lead-up to the war and provides a very general overview of events that took place. The description starts by focusing on American politics and international relations in the early 1800s. Briefly explained are the various attempts the U.S. made to stay out of a war with France and England. The narrative takes a turn away from the lead-up to war by devoting nearly an entire page to Dolley Madison and social politics. This is then followed by a short explanation of two Shawnee chiefs, Tecumseh and Tippecanoe, who lost land to the U.S. and lost in the battle of Tippecanoe. The reading transitions to talk exclusively about the events of the War highlighting major events and successes of American militants. The description ends by asserting no one won the War of 1812 but counters this with, “Americans celebrated as though they had…the war gave rise to a new spirit of nationalism.” This conclusion paints a pretty picture of American success and strength when it seems there was very little.

The preface does a good job of explaining the textbook’s purpose but in reading this section of the text I found it shockingly more simplified than the authors lead one to believe. The textbook was created as an introduction to American history so naturally, the content will be abridged and compacted. The authors seem to use this to copout on a truer/fuller narration of the War of 1812. Traditionalist interpretations of American history see the event is as less important than other aspects causing parts of the history to be brushed over and left out. For example, the reading grossly neglects to give much empathy to American Indians who suffered greatly nor do the authors suggest much wrong-doing on the United States part. The blatant partiality for the American perspective causes the reading to be staunchly in favor of showing the U.S. in good light.  The textbook shares a clear American perspective on the War of 1812 which lacks any alternative explanation or regard for the fuller details that could challenge this basic narrative.

Source: James Roark, Michael Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage and Susan Hartmann. The American Promise; A History of the United States, Fifth Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.

Word Count: 517

Cece Burger: Technology in the Home

For this blog, I read a few old newspaper articles on women and technology in the home. All of them acclaimed the wonders, capacities, and prospects of new home technology. In many of the articles, technology for the home promised greater freedoms for women. The L.A. Times in 1959 reported technology as one factor, “leading to the rise in feminine employment” and explained developments such as manufactured food and clothing have, “helped to ease the time-consuming workload of women in the home.” Greater free time for women was a major prospect of tech innovations, which seemed to cause a lot of excitement. Consistent throughout these articles is the feeling that duties of the household would become minimal and tech would greatly change the lives of women. Not all the articles were so enthusiastic about technology in the home. Some had a more negative tone and lamented the altering of women’s roles and the dramatic change that seemed to be on the horizon. Even an early article by the New York Times in 1932 predicted that women would become jobless in mechanized homes. The NYT quoted the president of Stevens Institute of Technology who declared, “Women are up against the most acute cases of technological unemployment, having been dumped out of the work that was peculiarly their own.” I found many newspapers of the time echoed similar expectations of technologies leaving women lost or without purpose, which seemed to be the standard opinion.

The articles I read show specific feelings of the time and highlight strong anticipation/ speculation over how dramatically roles of women would change. There was often negative word choice and unenthusiastic tones used by writers that seem to stress how uncertain society, particularly men, were over the change in women’s roles. These articles came from major newspapers with credibility but were written by men who held traditional views of women’s role in society. The approach taken by the writers are very interesting and telling of the societal norms, many of which today we find sexist. These perspectives also do not give a full picture but they do show a standard view of how society at large felt about 20th-century household technology. The articles lack alternative viewpoints such as how women themselves felt about the household technologies.


LynnPoole, “Technology Aids Women to Get Jobs.” Los Angeles Times, 9 November 1959

“Sees Women Jobless in Mechanized Homes: Head of Stevens Institute.” New York Times, 10 April 1932.

Patrick Buchanan, “Right from the beginning.” Little, Brown and Company, Boston. 1988

Word Count: 416

Cece Burger:  What is revisionism? Jeff Riggenbach

Jeff Riggenbach begins his book by explaining the importance of and the need for revisionism. His writing is focused on American history and the unique problems it faces. At the heart of what makes American history textbooks so important is their perpetuating influence. Riggenbach asserts, “What Americans know and understand about the history of the society in which they live will determine the degree of their willingness to honor and preserve its ideals and traditions.” This can be applied to history more broadly and to many countries and their own societies. Riggenbach continues his introduction by briefly outlining various challenges and changes to traditional narratives. Riggenbach ends the Preface by outlining the clear purpose of the book; his objective is to answer some hard questions about the discipline of history.

The first chapter, Objectivity in History, aims to address the fundamental question of objectivity’s influence and place in historical pursuit. Riggenbach explains the challenges historians face such as the inherent problem that not all of the past is still here, he writes, “The majority is indeed past, gone, inaccessible.” This automatically limits the historian and creates the practical need for thoughtful study of historical evidence. The facts that are accessible bring their own limitations and unreliability. Riggenbach acknowledges the limitations of facts of history but writes, “…we have what we have, and whatever its deficiencies we must make do with it.” With this comes significant responsibilities of the historian to take care in his/her work and be forthright about limitations.

I enjoyed the beginning of “Why American History Is Not What They Say” and found Riggenbach’s writing concise and easy to read. He pulls in engaging examples/quotes from historians and a variety of sources. His approach to historiography is straight forward while not being boring or tedious. I found his writing to be approachable for anyone but particularly interesting for a student of history. He seems to aim to challenge historian’s traditions and norms but not in a deprecating or insulting way. Riggenbach instead provides sensible analysis fully based on fact and reason and takes it further by providing solutions to various areas of historical study that need revision. This reading helped me further my understanding of revisionism and its noble aims.

Word Count: 388


Riggenbach, Jeff. “Why American History Is Not What They Say” Creative Commons, 2009. Pp 15-26.

Cece Burger: Why the United States dropped the bomb, By Gar Alperoviz


Gar Alperovitz is an American political economist and historian and has done extensive research on the atomic diplomacy.

In this article, Alperovitz gives an alternative interpretation as to why the United State dropped the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He begins with a strong statement calling the traditional explanation “morally comforting” but known to be false. Alperovitz follows with many references and explanations of why the traditional explanation is incorrect. A lengthy explanation of the evidence and various arguments leads the reader to the conclusion that there was no need to use the bomb. This is followed by Alperovitz’s attempt to explain why U.S. leaders still chose to use the atomic bomb. All the explanations Alperovitz provides point out alternative motives that complicate and muddle the traditional explanation. First, he states there is clear evidence that shows the U.S. desired to end the war before Russia could attack Japan and gain any more territory. Second, and more importantly, Alperovitz insists that there is evidence that U.S. officials saw the bomb as a way to strengthen negotiation power over the Soviets, with regard to the fate of postwar Europe and Asia. The bomb would provide a sense of security once negotiations began. In sum, according to Alperovitz, the bombs were not needed to save lives and their target was not Japan but the Soviet Union.

Alperovitz is writing with strong intention and presents a very non-standard view of what happened with the dropping of the atomic bomb.  He is taking the approach of a debunker of traditional historical understanding. The writing was interesting and truly made me rethink all I knew about the bombs and ending the war with Japan. He packed in a lot of quotes from other scholars and presented an assertive and easy to read argument. A key element of this argument is the use of new evidence that allows for his revisionism. I did, however, find some of the wording to be too general and in need of further examination (this is expanded upon in his book that I have not read). Alperovitz provides the reader with a plethora of sources and relies a lot on secondary writings that are engaging. I found that Alperovitz is making such a charged and controversial argument that I should examine further arguments. He also takes a singular stance for one reason and falls on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum compared to traditional explanation. This also makes me hesitate. Extremes, on any side of a debate, merit deeper examination. He does point to a lot of scholarly work that uses new, unclassified, documents which seem to provide new insight. But older documents are still reliable and important to the story. There must be some moments in his argument that are completely valid and challenge the traditional narrative but I believe the “truth” falls somewhere in the middle of both sides.


Gar Alperovitz, “Why the United States dropped the bomb.” MIT, Technology Review. August 1990.

Word Count 497

Cece Burger: Why the United States Dropped Atomic Bombs in 1945, By David Kaiser

In my search for a new resource that addressed the question of why the United States decided to use the atomic bomb in 1945, I found an intriguing article by historian David Kaiser from Time magazine. Kaiser is a frequent contributor to Time, is the author of seven books, and has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and the Naval War College.

Kaiser, in May of 2016, is prompted to write this article and explore the alternative theories about the use of the bomb because President Obama was amid his visit to Hiroshima. This visit inevitably raised old questions about the implementation of the first atomic bomb. Kaiser begins the article by addressing a school of thought from the 1960s that challenged the United States’ decision to use the atomic bomb. The argument avows that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary nor intended merely to defeat the Japanese. It was instead disputed to have been dropped to alarm the Soviet Union. Kaiser points out this argument has been too intertwined with emotions and not reason. He feels credible scholarly works that discredit many of the new theories about why the bomb was used have been overlooked and ignored by the public. He shares, “Those who have continued to argue that Moscow…was the real target of the A-bombs, have had to rely upon inferences…” However, the lack of credibility of alternative reasoning was not all encompassing Kaiser points out, “Other studies have made critical contributions about other aspects of the controversy. Thanks to them, we can see clearly that the Japanese were not at all ready to surrender on American terms…” Kaiser is able to make a distinction between the studies that worked off inferences and created more meaning than in actuality and those that found credible accounts and evidence to support reality.

Kaiser ends his article with a new tone compared to the article’s beginnings. He addresses the moral implications of the nuclear weapons. He explains that the use of the atomic bombs is not specifically the issue at hand. Instead, it is the attitude towards human life. There are many examples of horrific loss of life equal to or greater than the bombing of Japan in the name of war. Kaiser questions why other moments are not more the target of extensive questioning and analysis. This questioning seems more unreliable than the rest of the article because many historians focus on wartime loss of life and surely Kaiser is not the only one to question this. Kaiser ends with this, “The dropping of the bombs horrifies us today, but at the time, it was viewed as a necessary step to end a terrible war as quickly and with the least loss of life as possible. Careful historical research has validated that view.” This final line echoes the feeling throughout the article that Kaiser values reliable research and strongly supported arguments.

Kaiser makes a forceful argument supporting the traditional narrative of the United States using the atomic bombs to end the war with Japan. As an accredited academic and historian Kaiser seems to be a reliable source and I read his article with more confidence than I would other online sources. Kaiser echoes a lot of what was found in the resources provided for today’s class discussion. He truly believes in the traditional narrative behind the decision to use the atomic bomb and backs it up with solid facts and reasoning. Kaiser seems to value reliable academic research and arguments that have solid fact-based foundations. Throughout the article, he rejects any alternative arguments that he finds lack factual base. He does not dive super deep into the counter arguments/alternative schools of thought surrounding the use of the atomic bomb. This could be viewed as falling short however, I felt this allowed the article to be condensed into a readable length more appealing to the average reader. Kaiser skillfully gives the reader a more holistic view of the debates around dropping the bomb and his argument against them. His ending paragraph was especially interesting and made me think about the event in a new way.


David Kaiser, “Why the United States Dropped Atomic Bombs in 1945” TIME.com. http://time.com/4346336/atomic-bombs-1945-history/ , Accessed 7 September 2017

Word Count: 702

Cece Burger: Can History be Objective? By Matthieu Watson Santerre

Matthieu Watson Santerre is a Master’s student in History of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Santerre has published and posted several articles on a variety of topics. In September of 2014 he decided to address the question, is there an amount of time between facts and historical analysis/writing that allows for subjectivity and bias to be removed? I.e. can history be objective? He was prompted to share his answer to this question after being asked by a reader.

Santerre explicitly tells the reader he cannot speak for all historians but from his personal learning and research, he feels objectivity in history is impossible. He stresses that history is not a hard science but a social science in which bias can never be fully eliminated. Santerre states, “To better understand history, I think historians should begin to admit their limitations.” Santerre admits his own limitations by providing a personal example. He has chosen to study Emperor Franz Ferdinand and his role in WWI, in doing so he is bound to place more importance on him than someone who studies WWI from an American perspective. Through self-deprecation, Santerre shows innate predispositions that come with any study, inclusive of his own. Santerre concludes his article asserting that history is not meant to give absolute truths, but rather to “present facts and interpret them.” The strive for objectivity is important, however, its limitations must be acknowledged and explored.

This resource gives the personal view of a student of history in a frank writing style with controlled lengthiness that is not expected of an online opinion article. Santerre takes a methodical and honest approach to the question of objectivity in history but does not dive very deep into the topic. As a student of history, I value the opinions of my peers especially those in higher learning so the read was enjoyable. Santerre provides convincing reasoning to back his stance that historical objectivity is unattainable. Moreover, Santerre states the dangers, “By constructing subjective interpretations as fact we create dangerous preconceptions and myths.” and provides a solution, “We must accept [history’s] limitations. We need to be more open about it.”  While these may be overly simplistic they are straight to the point and easy for a reader to understand.


Mattieu W. Santerre, “Can History Be Objective?” The Art of Polemics. https://theartofpolemics.com/2014/09/05/can-history-be-objective/, Accessed 5 September 2017.

Word Count: 395