ALBANY, N.Y. – Terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq and natural disasters aren’t so bad compared to other tough times in America’s past, from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War, history professors say.
Asked to compare eight difficult periods of the nation’s history, 46 percent of the 354 professors who responded to a nationwide survey agreed the current era was the least trying. The Civil War, 55 percent said, was the toughest.
Researchers at the Siena Research Institute of Siena College came up with the survey after hearing students comment that they felt today’s era was one of the most trying in America’s history.
“It’s an issue of perspective,” said Thomas Kelly, a professor emeritus of history and American studies at Siena who helped conduct the survey.
Next to the Civil War – which threatened the nation’s existence and cost the lives of more than 600,000 people – the poll found the Revolutionary War and the Great Depression to be the most trying, followed by Vietnam and China’s Cultural Revolution, World War II, the Cold War, World War I and today.
Kristina Hicks, 20, a Siena junior, said while it’s true most of today’s Americans have not had to sacrifice as previous generations did, she disagrees with the poll’s findings.
“I definitely think today is one of most trying times,” she said. “When I read about things like 9-11 and the war in Iraq in textbooks, it doesn’t actually portray the whole picture of what happened.”
Kelly said the shock of the 2001 terrorist attacks was felt especially hard by today’s college students, who were in their early or middle teenage years at the time.