The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from alliance to antagonism to the barely averted holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the maneuvers of Nixon and Mao, Reagan and Gorbachev. Brilliant, accessible, almost Shakespearean in its drama, The Cold War stands as a triumphant summation of the era that, more than any other, shaped our own.
A collection of thematic insights rather than a comprehensive history
By Odysseus "A Traveller" - March 16, 2006
I bought this book with the expectation that it would provide a comprehensive overview of the events, episodes, personalities, motivations, and results of the Cold War. A reader looking for something similar might be disappointed. This book does not really attempt to be a comprehensive history of the Cold War, but is rather a collection of chapters, each devoted to a particular thematic aspect of the war. It reads as though Gaddis has a particular thesis about the Cold War that he wants to flesh out in each chapter, rather than telling the whole story in an orderly narrative.
As examples: there is a chapter about the "logic" of Mutual Assured Destruction, and how mankind's survival depended on two superpowers maneuvering their way through that system's pitfalls. There is another chapter contrasting the Leninist vision of authoritarianism with the Wilsonian vision of self-determination. There is a chapter about how the superpowers' respective allies eventually refused... read more
The Cold War in the Rearview Mirror
By Izaak VanGaalen - February 7, 2006
Yale history professor John Lewis Gaddis is America's foremost historian of the Cold War. Since the publication of "The United States and the Origins of the Cold War" in 1972, he has written a half dozen more books on the subject, each time finding a new perspective on the superpower standoff that took place between 1946 and 1991.
Prior to the 1970's, American historians, for the most part, put the blame of the origins of the Cold War on the Soviet system in general and on Josef Stalin in particular. Gaddis' early work was original insofar as it gave a more balanced perspective on the American/Soviet confrontation. After World War II, both superpowers acted rationally to protect their interests, having sacrificed many lives in hard-fought battles. Each side was protecting a way of life they thought morally superior.
In the current work under review, Gaddis' views seem to be evolving. Looking back at the Cold War in light of events since 1991, he concludes... read more
Snapshot of History
By Retired Reader - March 16, 2006
This book is a sweeping summary of what the author believes to be the principal events of the over forty year long confrontation between Communism and Capitalism called the Cold War. Gaddis is in every sense of the word an expert on the Cold War phenomenon and has used his expertise to write a concise, readable, and accurate summary of it. He correctly gives the late George F. Kennan credit for crafting the confrontation strategy of dynamic containment that in end allowed the Capitalist West to prevail over the Soviet Union and its client states. He also provides fascinating glimpses of how American Presidents from Truman to George H. W. Bush applied this strategy and how the Soviet leadership reacted to its application. Not all historians agree that Gaddis has interpreted many aspects of this period correctly, but most would acknowledge his knowledge of the period. So is this the definitive book on the Cold War? The short answer is, no it is not. It is an excellent summary and... read more
The death of the Roman Empire is one of the perennial mysteries of world history. Now, in this groundbreaking book, Peter Heather proposes a stunning new solution: Centuries of imperialism turned the ...