The United States 1919-1941

1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of source A as an interpretation of the role of Roosevelt in the New Deal? Explain your answer using source A and knowledge from your studies.

Source A has many strengths and weaknesses as an interpretation of the role of Roosevelt in the New Deal. As historians, we have to remember when studying the source is that this is just one interpretation; one account of the role of Roosevelt in the new deal. This already suggests one of the main limitations of the source.

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As the source has been extracted from a textbook, it is more than likely to be an objective interpretation as its purpose is to provide information to children. Contained in the source are facts and details known to be true. From previous research and other sources that Roosevelt did actually take part in the mentioned “fireside chats”. We also know from previous studies that Roosevelt was a very popular president, the fact that he received “avalanches of mail” shows that the source is trustworthy.

Also, by studying the source we learn that Roosevelt wanted to help “ordinary people”. Roosevelt once said that he wanted to help the “ordinary people at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. We know this statement to be largely accurate as we know that Roosevelt did, In fact, help the “ordinary” people.

Another strength of the source is that it was produced in 1989, by James T Patterson. Patterson benefited from hindsight as he could see for himself the impact Roosevelt had on “the people” in the long term. Source A is a secondary source that is based on primary sources. Because we must assume Patterson consulted a wide range of primary sources to produce this secondary source, we see this as strength in terms of reliability.

However, as the source is an American interpretation, it could be unintentionally biased. The content of the source may have been simplified depending on the audience and target intended. In this case, the textbook is for the use of children in American schools. This is seen as a limitation of the source. Source A is a secondary source. We do not know whether or not Patterson consulted a wide range of sources to compose his interpretation. Patterson himself, may have had unknown personal motives for writing so positively about Roosevelt. He, obviously, supported Roosevelt’s opinions, and because of this, he could have had an unintentional biased attitude.

To conclude, I believe that this source is partly reliable, to an extent. However, in order to develop a greater understanding about Roosevelt’s role in the new deal, a wider range of sources needs to be consulted.

2. Sources E and F are both sets of statistics. Which of these sources is the more useful to an historian studying the impact of the New Deal on the USA? Explain your answer using Sources E and F and knowledge from your studies.

Both sources, E and F are of value to a historian studying the impact of the New Deal, to an extent. Source E is clearly useful as it shows us the unemployment figures in USA between 1929-1939. It is useful as it shows us that from when Roosevelt was elected president and the New Deal was underway, unemployment rates steadily decreased. Clearly, alphabet agencies such as CCC, PWA, and WPA were in full action at this time. Their purpose was to reduce the unemployment in USA. The statistics reflect that this is true, so in this sense, it is useful.

As source E shows government produced statistics. One would like to believe they are totally reliable, as they have been produced by the government. In contrast, this source could be corrupted as the statistics possibly may have been doctored to make the new deal appear even more successful than it was. We know that the New Deal didn’t completely abolish unemployment; so therefore, Roosevelt did not completely solve USA’s problems.

These statistics could have been a source of propaganda and as we do not know the date of which they were compiled, we cannot possible totally trust it. Likewise, we do not know whether they refer to all workers – including the black, farmer and female population. Because of these limitations, one must be careful when examining the source.

Source F is a leaflet, which aims to criticise Roosevelt for intervening too much with the American public. The producers of this source are criticising Roosevelt for regulating peoples lives and ultimately, making America “work-shy”. It is useful as it gives historians an anti-Roosevelt perspective on the impact of Roosevelt’s role in the New Deal. However, the company who produced this leaflet probably had a negative experience of the new deal; they were most probably a republican company. They may have been lead into financial difficulty following the successes of the New Deal for other “ordinary” people.

One must be careful when interpreting this source as it clearly is a method of propaganda that is trying to tarnish Roosevelt’s name. The republicans are displaying their resentment towards Roosevelt, so in this sense, we must be cautious when examining its reliability.

To conclude, overall, source E and F is both, useful and useless. Source E does provide us with basic information about unemployment rates and source F does give us a sound perspective of anti-Roosevelt opposition at that time. However, both sources are limited in the way that source E doesn’t teach us anything about the other New Deal successes, like education and health. Source F, likewise, has its limitations as it does not give us a true reflection of what he was actually doing at the time. Both sources are different as they were written by different people, from different sides of the political spectrum, which ultimately makes each source serve a different purpose.

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