Richard M. Nixon at the bar of history: oral history and the four schools of Watergate thought

Gatt, K 2014, Richard M. Nixon at the bar of history: oral history and the four schools of Watergate thought, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Richard M. Nixon at the bar of history: oral history and the four schools of Watergate thought
Author(s) Gatt, K
Year 2014
Abstract Although it is generally accepted that the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon broke down as a result of the Watergate Affair (1972–1974), there is no definitive consensus on the causes of the Watergate break-in or the extent of Nixon’s role in the scandal. This study investigates the various ways significant Watergate actors and prominent observers of the drama perceived and assigned meaning to Watergate and the Nixon presidency’s role behind it by examining the recorded views of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library Oral History Project.

The Nixon Library interviewed 141 participants between 2006 and 2011, including Nixon administration officials, politicians during the Nixon era, officials from other presidential administrations, media and entertainment figures, and Nixon’s family and friends. As a data source, the Nixon Library’s oral history collection contained the most current and widespread compilation of views about Nixon, his presidency and Watergate, open to the public at the commencement of this research. Since many of the participants involved in the project passed away shortly after being interviewed, the examination of these materials allowed for the assessment of the last words they publicly stated on the topic of the affair, and reflect on how their views of Watergate have evolved over time. As these oral histories had not been studied in depth before, their analysis provided an opportunity to obtain invaluable insight into the lasting legacy of the Watergate Affair, permitting me to outline fresh and original perspectives on the event decades after it occurred.

Through the synthesisation and organisation of the various themes within Watergate’s historiography, this research outlines the development of a new theoretical framework to examine the meanings behind the Watergate Affair—a lens categorising differing views into four schools of thought. These schools are distinguished by their perception of the causes of the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s role in the affair, and have been characterised as: Nixon at Centre, Power and Personality, Precedent and Context, and Nixon as Victim. This framework was used as an analytical tool to examine the Nixon Library’s oral histories. This resulted in the development of the four competing narratives outlined and discussed in this thesis, ultimately suggesting that the history and meaning of Watergate continues to be contested four decades after Nixon’s resignation.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Sciences
Subjects Criminology not elsewhere classified
Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) United States
Presidential History
Oral History
Richard Nixon
Watergate Affair
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Created: Fri, 24 Apr 2015, 14:12:07 EST by Keely Chapman
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