Nicky Brown: Reconsidering the Atomic Bombings, Morton pg. 1-7

 

Nearly 12 years after the notorious atomic bombings of WWII, American military historian Louis Morton decided to revisit the subject offering new insight into the highly controversial events. His report was entitled “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” and it focused quite heavily on a much earlier report from Henry L. Stimson, acting Secretary of War during the later years of the war. Morton used newly emerged interviews and confessionals from those closely associated with the Manhattan Project in conjunction with Stimson’s report to create a more nuanced look into the decisions leading up to the bombings.

Early on, Morton makes specific mention that many of the leading scientists working on the project protested its hasty usage against Japan. These accounts, previously unknown to the public, portrayed a very different narrative of the atomic project. Those scientists working directly with the bomb confessed that early on in development they naively gave little thought to the destructive potential of the weapon and instead viewed the process as merely pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery. It was not until these men and women neared the completion of the project that they began to seriously consider the humanitarian as well as political consequences their creation would wreak on the world. More than 2/3 of these scientists would petition the White House to demonstrate its atomic arsenal to the United Nations by publically testing them on dummy sites and then wait for the approval of the UN and US public before bombing Japan. Morton explains that this approach was rejected by the Truman administration and Stimson’s Interim Committee because of the project’s limited resources as well as security issues in the Pacific. The Interim Committee believed there was too great a chance of the bombs failing to detonate in either the demonstration or actual bombing of Japan. The committee also worried that Japanese military officials would react to the demonstration by shuttling all American POWs to potentially targeted areas.

Morton successfully adds new perspective to the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan, an issue that was widely supported by the American public at the time. To breathe unpopular but equally valid opinions into a still very fresh and sensitive subject was certainly a bold move on Morton’s part.

WORD COUNT: 374

Morton, Louis. “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” Foreign Affairs 35, no. 2 (January 1957): 334-39. Accessed September 6, 2017. JSTOR.

Historical Objectivity: Does it exist?

Is history objective or subjective? The answer is both. While every historian strives to eradicate personal bias and subjectivity from their research, it is impossible to do so completely. Niall Ferguson, history professor at Harvard University, explores this idea in a short video entitled “Is there such a thing as historical objectivity?”. Ferguson attributes historical writing’s inherent subjectivity to the author’s interpretation and inference. As we discussed in class, we are not only susceptible to our own unique perspective and experiences but we are a product of our own time and no other. While this is an obvious notion it is nonetheless an interesting one. When you consider that as the world changes so does our interpretation of it, history can be seen as more conversational than it is factual. In the video, Ferguson contrasts history to science in terms of how it is conducted. He posits that while science can be proven through a repetition of non-subjective experiments, history can only be proven through the study of sources selected at the researcher’s own discretion. While this difference is true, history and science are in many ways similar. History’s “truths” are grounded in theories the same way as scientific ones are. Ferguson states that “History aspires to truth but will never attain it” as “there is no definitive, objective truth on which all historians will one day agree.”  The same interpretation and inference that keeps a historian from total objectivity is also his greatest asset. These are the tools that allow us to conduct original research and help further the understanding of the historical narrative.

 

Word count: 266