Topics in History: Investigating Watergate

The scandal that made the -gate suffix a political standby saw its last legal headlines more than 40 years ago, when former U.S. Attorney General, John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman were each sentenced to 2.5 to 8 years in prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Now’s the perfect time to dig into the historic cover-up that permanently altered our perception of politicians.


All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein :: Developed from the series of articles Woodward and Bernstein wrote for the Washington Post during the Watergate years, All the President’s Men was published just a few months before Nixon’s resignation and was instrumental in turning public opinion against the president. 

Watergate by Fred Emery :: Emery was the Washington bureau chief for the London Times during the Watergate scandal. In this exhaustive book, Emery gives a blow-by-blow account of the scandal, drawing mainly on the Nixon tapes. 

The Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat by Max Holland :: Max Holland makes the case that Woodward and Bernstein’s source did not feed them information out of a sense of conscience but rather out of resentment that he had been passed over by Nixon for the top position at the FBI. 

The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House by H.R. Haldeman :: H.R Haldeman was Nixon’s Chief of Staff and kept these detailed diaries between 1969 and 1973,when he was forced to resign amid Watergate controversy. 


All the President’s Men (1976) :: Journalism has probably never looked as glamorous as it does in this film, based on the book of the same name, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein. 

Frost/Nixon (2008) :: Nixon’s mannerisms and prickly personality have been parodied many times, but Frank Langella lends a humanity and pathos to the role of the shifty president. Based on the series of interviews David Frost conducted with an at times unsettlingly candid Nixon in 1977, Frost/Nixon reveals the paranoia which was to be so central to the Watergate scandal.  

Between 1971 and 1973, Nixon secretly recorded 3,700 hours of conversation in the White House. The tapes, which eventually helped lead to his resignation, give rare insight into the workings of power and Nixon’s complicated motives for covering up the scandal.

This post is excerpted from an article originally published in the winter 2015 issue of home/school/life. 

Jeremy Harris writes about books, music, and travel. He grew up in new Zealand but feels at home in the States.