Going back in time, a notably-historic usage of the term conspiracy theory, in these now united States, may harken back to the work of American industrialist turned historian called James Ford Rhodes. In Rhodes' work entitled 'History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 Vol. III' the term conspiracy theory is used in chapter XIV on page 273.
In the table of contents, the section for chapter 14 is offered as a question to the reader.
"Was the secession a conspiracy or a people's movement?" Upon advancing to that page in the book, the running head is entitled
"The Conspiracy Theory." So as you can see, we're already getting a feel for the direction where the next several pages of the publication are heading.
In short, the author pays some consideration to the conspiracy theory that select members of southern states colluded with confederates in northern states to trigger the south to secede from the union. Ultimately, however, the Ohio born Rhodes seems relatively unconvinced of this conspiracy theory. And that's just one look at the historical usage of the term as pertains to a Pulitzer prize-winning author.
For me, the fact that the use of the term goes back to 1895 is no surprise at all. The combining of these two well-established words is only logical. Conspiracies have existed for as long as humankind has had language. All it is is an indicator of when two or more people agree to commit an illegal, wrongful, or harmful act. Before anyone can prove that a conspiracy has happened, they have to have the impression that it happened in the first place, and this is called a theory.
That's what conspiracy theory means to me. It means that you have a notion that two or more parties agreed to commit an illegal, wrongful, or harmful act. However, in modern parlance, the term conspiracy theory has steadily gotten degraded, derided, demonized, and destroyed by not only the government, which charges people with conspiracy daily—but also by its fourth branch, the bought and paid for mainstream news media.
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