— Mae D'Amico, History in the Making

A town in the mid-west during the Dust Bowl being consumed by a dust storm.

Provide the full bibliographic citation for your Primary Source

Magoc, Chris J. Environmental Issues in American History: A Reference Guide with Primary Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006. Print.

Compose a 1-2 page answer to the following questions1.      Briefly describe the source or sources.

Environmental Issues in American History is a book analyzing major environmental disasters that took place in America.  In the book there are numerous primary source entries that promote the author’s argument based on which disaster the author is writing about.

2.      When was the source written?

The book was first published in 2006.

 3.      Who composed the source?

The author of this work is Chris J. Magoc.

4.      Provide some information about the author.

Chris J. Mogoc is a PHD, professor, and historian who specializes in environmental issues.  As a “green” enthusiast he sympathizes with the people who lived through ecological disasters in America.

5.      Under what conditions was the source composed?

The primary sources in this book are from a myriad of people and conditions.  They are regular people, reporters, the president, critics, etc.  They range from people who were living through the hardships of the Dust Bowl to the people who were responsible for trying to fix it.

6.      How will you use the source for your paper?

I will use this source for my paper in many ways.  There are many different people and sources that I can cite from to promote my argument.

7.      What are some of the problems that you foresee in using this source for your paper?

Although this book is an excellent source for primary sources for people in and during the Dust Bowl, it is in a way, slightly too specific in one aspect of my paper.  I will not just be writing about the ecological disaster of the Dust Bowl but going in depth about the people of Oklahoma.  I will be investigating how they lived their lives, the migration of “Okies” to California, and the lives of the Oklahomans when they got there.  Furthermore I will be comparing what I find with the portrayal of them in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.  In this way, the primary sources I will be using from this book will only be addressing one part of what I will be writing about.

Also there was some disagreement between me and my professor about whether primary sources used as evidence in a secondary source were indeed primary sources.  I would be inclined to think so, but I understand his point that these primary sources are less adequate than primary sources that stand alone.  The primary sources collected by Magoc could be biased selections and therefore I need to find more primary sources in addition to the ones I found in his book.

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Map of Armenia

The “Rhea Papers” are a compilation of documents that are intended to inform the reader of the history of the Independent Republic of Armenia.  The documents record the actions of Colonol Rhea and the Azerbaijani prime minister.  There are pictures of key political figures, conversations that passed between involved actors, and even Colonol Rhea’s passport. Although it is a very interesting primary source, there seems to be little to no analysis by the author and one has to comb through the information given with no context or background history.

Just skimming through the documents one can find certain interesting names that pop out like the Ottoman empire, and the Georgia Republic.  I find the map on page 253 interesting because the USSR would have just been formed in 1922 while the letter next to it on page 252 was signed in 1919, meaning that either the map is out of place or that the conflict dragged on for years. After doing a little background research it would make sense that there would be such an interest in Armenia after WWI due to the fact that Armenia was under the Ottoman Empire’s control.  The Ottoman Empire actually put in place a systematic genocide of the Armenian people and Armenia had been at odds with its neighbors for centuries due to religious and historical differences.  The Rhea Papers are just a brief look into a conflict that had been going on for centuries that outside powers happened upon.

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Prof. Alan Sokal


I am not a scientist, nor will I pretend I understood most or any of what Professor Alan Sokal was writing about in  Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.  As a student of history, I enthusiastically vaulted into the reading assigned by my professor realizing that this is an article about physics-related concepts.  A few pages in, I still clung to my faith that it would eventually morph into some kind of historical lesson and kept reading.  The familiar unfolding of a historical lesson never came.  Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity is more of an informative article about Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum physics.  Towards the end there does seem to be some sort of argument leaning towards the theory that time is relative and therefore so are the progressions of social science, but as a moderately educated person I can hardly make heads or tails of the argument or the conclusion.

The lesson that I learned from this article is that background investigation is important.  The reason that this article was so nonsensical is due to the fact that it is indeed meant to be nonsensical.  The “Sokal Scandal” was a hoax Sokal constructed aimed at the intellectual journals in 1996 when he wrote Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity and sent it in to be published by Social Text a prestigious academic journal.  The submission of his article was a test to see if the editors were reading their submissions carefully or just publishing something that sounded good or seemed credible.  He got his point across by coming out later and admitting the whole article was a joke and in fact, did not make any sense.

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Nicholas Schmidle with some children in Herat, Afghanistan.

History must originally come from somewhere.  In today’s day and age, that somewhere is usually journalism.  Journalists assume the role of the first person to present events, analyze, and publish their findings on the subject they are reporting on.  In Nicholas Schmidle’s case, he was the first journalist to accumulate a substantial amount of evidence about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.  In years to come this article will be sited as a primary source and the serious limitations found will by serious historians, but until then the article can be analyzed by even casual readers.

Although I have just recently been informed that this article lead the rise to serious treasonous accusations due to the leak of information, I found this article to be nothing more than very well articulated piece of propaganda.  The article has a certain overwhelming sense of sympathy for the Navy SEALs.  Everything that the SEALs did was heroic and anything they did wrong was understandable.  The SEAL valiantly bear-tackled two of Osama’s wives in order to shield his buddies from a blast if they were wearing bomb jackets.  The SEALs understandingly crashed a helicopter which, in retrospect one of the soldiers recalls, was perhaps a good thing because it would kill conspiracy theories of the event never taking place.  Hard to argue with that the mission did not even happen when there is a crashed U.S. helicopter in Pakistan.

There is something unsettling about this propaganda, however.  To get all this information there had to be some sort of leak from the White House.  That I do not find to be the biggest of issues.  The Bush administration leaked information about Valerie Plame’s identity back in 2005 destroying her career.  Leaks, whether they were accidental or on purpose, happen.  What I find unsettling about this article is that there are a lot of facts stated, although we can not be sure whether the facts are correct or not, but that the facts are hardly analyzed by the author.

The events could not have unfolded so nicely that the U.S. was completely in the right in this situation. What exactly was the mission?  To catputure or kill?  If it were to kill than the “killing” of Osama would better be titled, the “assassination” of Osama.  Is the government seriously trying to sway the masses to believe all this jingoist nonsense about how innocent we were in the operation?  Navy SEALs entered into Pakistan with no permission to turn a residential home into a war zone.  The terrorists were reported to have been popping out of corners with AK-47’s, but how much of that is true?  Can we trust our government at it’s word?  The only thing to do now is wait and see the uncovering of truths behind this event by future historians.

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