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For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  100 ratings  ·  9 reviews
To the amazement of the public, pundits, and even the policymakers themselves, the ideological and political conflict that had endangered the world for half a century came to an end in 1990. How did that happen? What caused the cold war in the first place, and why did it last as long as it did?

The distinguished historian Melvyn P. Leffler homes in on four crucial episodes
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Hill and Wang
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Very readable summary of Cold War that focuses entirely on the leaders of the Soviet Union and United States, arguing that these leaders ideologies were what shaped the conflict and ultimately, due to the efforts of Gorbachev, ended it.

Nothing ground-breaking in the book, perhaps, but still an excellent review of the events between 1945 and 1989.
J.M. Hushour
Pretty much all Cold War-era politicians, the ones that mattered, Soviet and American, were pieces of shit. This is not in doubt here in this study. Writ large, they were fanatic ideologues, the Americans much more so, it seems, who refused to bend to the other's will for fear that their "way of life" would be threatened. This is a stupid foundation on which to view one's strategic, geopolitical aims, for what is a political ideology, communist or capitalist, but some dumb crap someone else that ...more
This book was an interesting commentary on the cold war. It begins at Stalin's takeover of Russia. This leads up to the beginning of the Cold War. This commentary is mainly from an American perspective. Starting with President Truman and Stalin, Then all the way to Reagan and Gorbachev. Although the book mainly focuses on Presidents and the Kremlin (the leaders of soviet Russia), it also has some commentary on Winston Churchill and some Secretary of States. Leffler strikes me as a moderate lean ...more
Feb 23, 2009 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Cold War buffs.
Great overview on the Cold War and the important decisions that occurred during that dangerous 45 year period. The author is very evenhanded in his judgment of the major players during the era. Gorbachev and Reagan both played pivotal roles in ending the Cold War; the author feels Gorby's contributions outweighed Ronnie's in that Gorbachev initiated glasnost and perestroika which inevitably led to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Jun 21, 2009 Todd is currently reading it
Excellent work that explores the fine line between human agency and contingency as it related to key events throughout the Cold War. This book was well written and focused on the power players, such as Truman and Stalin, and showed how ideology, domestic considerations, and other factors shaped their responses to a rapidly changing post war world.

A little too long, but I found the depth fascinating at times. Really helped me understand the mindset of each country during the Cold War, which is something I had been unable to grasp before -- particularly that of the United States.
Excellent review of the Cold War, effectively covering all of the major leaders and decisive events. While I love Cold War history, I had never actually read any; this book was a marvelous introduction, and was highly readable. My only complaint is how the late 50's and early 70's are skipped entirely.
May 27, 2008 Barry added it
The capsule biographies were good, especially the one of Stalin. And I never realized just how scared the Soviets were of Germany. Gorbachev's allowing the reunification seems to have loosened his hold on power.
Great man history at its finest.
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