Writing this paper has certainly come a long way from my original research proposal back in September. I have narrowed my focus down to looking at the evolving relationship between the executive branch and corporations during the twentieth century, which I realize still sounds like a fairly expansive topic. I am using the United Fruit Company as a case study, and looking at different confrontations the company had with four different US presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. I settled on these four presidents after reading several books on the company and deciding that their interactions with the company would best illustrate the relationship between United Fruit and the US government.
My most frustrating problem so far has been the issue of finding proper primary sources to illustrate each of these interactions. For example, in the section about Theodore Roosevelt, I discuss a dispute between his administration and United Fruit regarding Jamaican workers, who he had hoped to recruit in order to build the Panama Canal. I have ample primary sources about Jamaican workers working on banana plantations and building the canal, as well as letters from Theodore Roosevelt portraying his “rough-rider” attitude, but I cannot seem to find any primary sources in which one party directly addresses another. All I really have is the secondary sources in which scholars themselves discuss the dispute, but I feel that this alone is inadequate in crafting a credible argument.
I have looked on various Internet databases and search engines, and even gone so far as to write to the authors of the books themselves to ask where I might be able to locate these documents. Unfortunately, even the authors told me that primary sources on the topics are scarce, even though in one case the author was very helpful in directing me to another historian who may be able to assist me. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions that may help me make my arguments more well rounded, I would really appreciate it. Also I want to wish all the other fellows good luck as they start to finish up their papers!