History Q & A

  • How Many Presidential Doctrines Have There Been?

    by HNN Staff

    Following is a list of presidential doctrines. Such doctrines do not have the force of law, but invariably carry tremendous weight and are usually respected by succeeding administrations. Monroe Doctrine1823 WHAT IT IS:Moving to protect American hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, President James Monroe declared that henceforth the U.S. would stop any European nation from interfering in the affairs of any country not already colonized. BACKGROUND:Fearing France would attempt to develop colonies in Latin America, Britain asked the U.S. to join the empire in publicly denouncing French ambitions. While siding with Britain in the matter, the Monroe Administration decided to issue its own statement, sending a clear signal to European powers that any interference in the Western Hemisphere would be considered an act of hostility. Ironically, the United States depended on the British navy to enforce the policy, which didn’t become known as the Monroe Doctrine, until some time later.  Polk Doctrine1845

  • How Did Americans Feel About Incarcerating German POW's in W. W. II on US Soil?

    by Megan Stephenson

    As news of Guantanamo Bay filters through the media, torture, fear and human rights are common themes. Conservative pundits speak out, asserting average Americans are afraid the detainees will devastate America again if released. Human rights groups all over the world have been calling for the end of abuse by the United States, and the CIA recently stated that torture does not yield “significant leads,” according to the Washington Post.But, to steal a scene from the n

  • What is the Geneva Convention?

    by Patrick Farrell

    Note: This article was first published in 2002. The Geneva Convention often written and spoken of in contemporary news is actually the fourth Geneva Convention ratified in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II. The original Convention grew out concern for wounded soldiers in the late 19th century and has come to encompass the protection of prisoners of war, civilians and civilian non-combatants including reporters, photographers, and religious and medical personnel. The hi

  • Were Nazis Tortured in World War II?

    by Caleb Miller

    Were Nazis tortured in World War II? How one ultimately answers the question of whether Nazi POWs were tortured in World War II depends on how one defines torture. It also depends on what one considers a "Nazi." There were three main categories under which a "Nazi POW" held by American forces in WW II could fall: (1) a National Socialist Party or German-American Bund member, who was perhaps a suspected Nazi-sympathizer already living in the United St

  • How Did Women’s History Month Come About?

    by Estelle B. Freedman

    Related LinksDaniel Sauerwein: Women’s History Month: Comparing Presidential Proclamations Jessica Pritchard: Women’s History Month Obama Proclaims March Women's History Month (2009) Carl Sferrazza Anthony: Michelle Obama, F

  • What Is the "Negro National Anthem"?

    by Alison Diefenderfer

    On January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery paraphrased and in places recited the lyrics of an African-American folk song informally known as the “Negro National Anthem” in his benediction at President Obama’s inauguration.  To a large portion of the audience, the significance of the allusion was lost.  Some writers like Jill Nelson criticized the vastly-white media for fa

  • When Did the Great Depression Receive Its Name? (And Who Named It?)

    by Noah Mendel

    The Great Depression: Where, exactly, did this term so present in the American lexicon, and so connected to America’s historical narrative, come from? Who said it first? In The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972, author and historian William Manchester argued that Herbert Hoover deliberately chose to use the word “depression” when discussing the economic situation of the time. Although similar economic downturns in American histor

  • Do the Firings of U.S. Attorneys Have a Precedent?

    by John Elrick

    This week the Bush Administration’s firing of eight U.S. attorneys continued to make headlines. In the face of bipartisan criticism of the dismissals, the Attorney General’s Office and the White House insisted that the firings were routine procedure and based on historical precedent. After a speech in Arkansas on March 8, presidential adviser Karl Rove declared, “these attorneys serve at the pleasure of the

  • Are We Really Printing Money to Finance Our Debts?

    by Omar Hossini

    Most Americans have heard in the media recently that we are “printing money” to finance our bailouts of the financial and auto sectors. Are we? The answer to the question is not as simple as it appears. When the Fed wants to raise money for the government it sells government bonds. The more bonds it sells the more money it raises. As long as there are buyers the government can raise as much money as it needs. If the buyers grow skittish the government can raise the yield on t

  • Have Presidential Inaugurations Always Featured Religion?

    by Megan McKee

    Barack Obama’s inauguration struck a religious note. In his address, he referred to God through Scripture, saying, "The time has come to set aside childish things," from I Corinthians, Chapter 9.  Furthermore, he added the words “So help me God” to the end of his oath while choosing to recite it with his hand atop the Lincoln Bible.  And, beyond this, Obama invited various ministers to deliver prayers

  • Presidency: How Do Historians Evaluate the Modern Presidency?

    by Marc Landy & Sid Milkis

    The scandalous politics of Bill Clinton's second term, which saw the president of the United States ensnared by revelations of an affair with a White House intern, deeply embarrassed the nation. No less disconcerting was the zealousness with which the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, pursued the investigation of the president's peccadilloes, and the alacrity with which a Congress bitterly divided by partisanship supported it. That a constitutional crisis could be brought by such a ta

  • What Are the Biggest Financial Scandals in U.S. History?

    by HNN Staff

    Related Links John Steele Gordon: Pyramid Schemes Are as American as Apple Pie AP: Largest Ponzi schemes in history CNN: Who was Ponzi -- what the heck was his scheme? NYT: Ponzi schemes ... how do they think it will end?

  • What Are the Origins of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

    by Rob Alford

    Editor's Note: This article was published in 2003.In recent months, the nation's two largest mortgage finance lenders have come under increasing scrutiny at the hands of Congress, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Federal National Mortgage Association, nicknamed Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, nicknamed Freddie Mac, have operated since 1968 as government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). This means that, although the two companies are privately owned and operated by shareholders, they are protected financially by the support of the Federal Government. These government protections include access to a line of credit through the U.S. Treasury, exemption from state and local income taxes and exemption from SEC oversight. A recent accounting scandal at Freddie Mac that resulted in the replacement of three of the company's top executives has led to mounting concerns over the privileged status these GSEs enjoy in the marketplace.

  • Why Is News So Negative These Days?

    by Thomas Patterson

    Where Have All the Voters Gone? Series by Thomas PattersonPart 1: Where Have All the Voters Gone?Part 2: Why Do So Many Americans Hate Politics?

  • What Are the Origins of “Reasonable Doubt”?

    by James Q. Whitman

    As everybody knows, no person in the United States of America can be convicted of a crime unless that person’s guilt is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It would be hard to name a legal doctrine mor

  • Watergate Scrapbook: What Do You Remember?

    by HNN Staff

    Thirty years ago today spies hired by the Committee to Re-Elect the President broke into the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and were caught. BEST QUOTESRichard Nixon"I am not a crook." "There must be no whitewash at the White House.""One year of Watergate is enough.""How much money do you need?" Nixon asked. John Dean:"I would say these people are go

  • What Are the Origins of the Middle East Crisis?

    by Michael Oren

    Editor's Note: This is the first chapter in Michael Oren's Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2002). We are taking the extraordinary step of publishing the entire chapter to help readers understand the origins of the current Middle East crisis. We thank the publisher and the author for giving us permission.

  • Is It True that President Bush Hasn't Hired Any Jews in His Cabinet?

    by Andrea Young

    An unsigned mass email criticizing George W. Bush alleges that unlike other recent presidents he has not appointed any Jews to his cabinet. Various blogs and media outlets have picked up the story and have further disseminated this allegation in accordance with their predispositions, thereby allowing the email to gain a wide audience. The email, which features the Jewish record of appointments by 21 presidents, asks its readers to &ldquo