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The book, The Crucial Decade and After: America 1945-1960, published in 1966, is about the transformation of the post-World War II peace into the globalization of the Cold War. It was first written in 1956 and then edited and more sections added in 1966. Much of the material written in 1956 seems incomplete, or unfinished. The 1966 additions attempted to fill in some of the missing holes and unclear thoughts. It is mainly a historical anthology. He gives a greatly detailed account of McCarthyism. Goldman blames McCarthy for creating the cold war through protectionist politics and defensive trade positions of the between the United States. This paper will demonstrate, that while Eric Goldman is valuable as a source of details about the era, his work holds little value as a historical piece of work.
Eric Goldman was a Professor at a Princeton University who had served Mr. Johnson as a special consultant in the White House. Dr. Goldman's relationship with Mr. Johnson had been stormy, and they often disagreed on policy. Professor Goldman was kind in his criticism of Johnson and made an attempt to acknowledge views other than his own. The historian took a compassionate view of the President in retrospect.
The history was written soon after and as the events were taking place. It cannot be considered a historical account. This can skew the perspective of the author, as is the case with this work. Goldman is unable to step outside his own opinions, which often were a source of great controversy to others. In this respect this work cannot be considered a history, but instead a commentary written as the events were taking place. A history written well after the events taking place is very different than one written as they are taking place. A participant in the events is often not the best historical perspective. Many have tried to step outside their own opinions and give an objective view of the events, but few have succeeded and their works ends up being a weakly supported argument for their own views. This is the case with this work. One example is when he calls Lattimore "a non-Communist liberal who had been called into consultation infrequently by the State Department and whose suggestions had been almost totally ignored." (Goldman, 119) This is just one example, of how Goldman interjects his opinions of people through out the book. It is quite clear exactly with whom Goldman sides and agrees with and who he considers his adversary. A true history must have more objectivity.
I do not believe that the goal of Eric Goldman was to weakly promote his controversial views, but this is what the book tended to do. His true intent was to give a bird's eye view of McCarthyism and the events that led to the cold war. He did not accomplish an objective view and therefore his work cannot be considered a true history of the events. This can be compared to the works of Leon Trotsky about the Russian Revolution. Many of the same problems with objectivity can be found here as well. Histories written soon after or during the events tend to have more facts and figures that are not available after the fact, but they also tend to lack objectivity. This is the case with Eric Goldman's books.
Goldman's criticism of the works of other is often jaded with unsupported argument and therefore must regarded as shear opinion and not actual fact as in the following example,
Late in the war, the University of Chicago Press Published The Road to Serfdom by an Austrian-born economist, Friedrich A. Von Hayek. [He] had set his scholarship within a general proposition that caught perfectly the mood of American conservatism. Nazism, he contended, had not gown up on opposition to New Deal-type liberalism; such liberalism and Nazism came from the same roots. All Western Civilization had been relying increasingly on ideas of national economic planning, and the ideas, whether called liberalism, Nazism, Socialism, or Communism, led inevitably to totalitarian serfdom." (Goldman, 7-8)
This view was not shared by Goldman's colleagues and was often a source of heated debate among his contemporaries. When asked to defend his ideas, Goldman was often at a loss to do so.
As far as the relevancy to his subject matter, it is difficult to find fault in Goldman's work. He does not wander from the topic and his work is very focused. His intent was to give an overview of the events that shaped the cold War. He has access to many first person accounts of conversations and letters written at the time, which other historians could only dream about. He knows little know facts and stories, some of which he witnessed with his own eyes. His coverage of the topic is thorough and complete.
Even though Goldman's work is full of his own opinions and slants on events, we still can find value in little known gems of history that are presented throughout the work. As a source of historical trivia, Goldman is an excellent and reliable source, if this were not the case, his work would be an outright falsehood and this certainly is not he case. Here is one example of this type of fact,
One of the least serious charges ever made against the New Deal Democrats was that they had stolen the gold in Fort Knox. Only a few crackpots believed the accusation. But in 1953 the Daughters of the American Revolution forced Dwight Eisenhower, the first Republican president in twenty years, to have the gold counted. Investigators found that the Fort contained $30,442,415,581.70 worth of the precious metal. That was ten dollars less than it should have been. Mrs. Georgia Clark, treasurer of the United States under the Democrats, sent the government a check to cover the loss." (Goldman, 239)
Had it not been for this work, many little known facts such as this one would have remained hidden from the American public forever. This is where the true historical value of this work lies. Here is another passage, which is a prime example of Goldman's factual style of writing,
Although the most visible progress on civil rights would not take place until the 1950's and 1960's, there was a strong reaction against segregation in the late 1940's. As one newspaper editorial stated, "It is high time we ended this business. We can't do it as decent human beings and we can't do it as a nation trying to sell democracy to a world full of non-white peoples." The civil rights movement received a big boost in 1948 when President Truman ordered the armed forces to end segregation in the military "as rapidly as possible." (Goldman, 278)
Had Goldman stuck to this factual style of reporting of events such as this, it would hold more substance as a historical work. The book is full of wonderful and interesting little known historical facts and stories such as this, but unfortunately the reader has to wade through pages upon pages of what resembles editorial opinion to find them.
At times it seems as if two people are writing this book. The style goes from factual and straight forward as is shown in the above examples to highly opinionated and unsupported. One of the main weaknesses in the factual sections is their lack of citations. He often makes statements such as "As on newspaper editorial stated..." And never tells us where he got the information. This weakens the strongest portion of his book.
This book is easier to digest if the reader views it as two separate works. One is the highly opinionated views of Eric Goldman and the other is a highly detailed account of the events that transpired. Both books exist within one…[continue]
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