The Cold War: A New History
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The Cold War: A New History

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  1,768 ratings  ·  202 reviews
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 a...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Matt
Jun 03, 2007 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People under 30
If you asked the 10 best historians in the world to write a history of the Cold War in under 250 pages, you would get back 10 works that were overly broad, sweeping, slanted, and/or missing key facts. Gaddis hasn't avoided all these pitfalls, but it's an excellent effort, and most important for his target audience, the book is eminently readable. He creates a sense of urgency and page-turning suspense in a book that describes the history of a war that never actually got "hot." His political lean...more
Jon
The Cold War: A New History is among the latest entries by John Lewis Gaddis on the history and politics of the Cold War. Though it reviews a time still within the living memory of many, Gaddis frets that younger generations have grown up without an understanding or an appreciation for the important lessons of the Cold War. This he thinks a shame, perhaps even a danger. So to provide a remedy and cure the ailment of historical ignorance, Gaddis proposes to write a history—a new history—that will...more
Choco
Not a bad book, I'd say. It did make me chuckle a few times, not because I think there was anything funny about the Cold War, but some of the interactions between the U.S presidents and the Soviet leaders are amusing.

The one thing that I disliked about this:

These feel like essays that tell us about what happened during the Cold War, but they're based on different topics and themes. The book does progress narrative-like sometimes, but the dates that shift back and forth, the names, and the plac...more
Susan
I listened to this one and I think I need to listen to it twice. I found it extremely engaging, but it's not your typical "narrative" history. He organizes his materials more or less chronologically, but focuses on idea and concepts and people more than chronology. Most fascinating was the chapter called "Actors" which he means both literally and figuratively, i.e., the world personalities involved whom he saw as capable actors on the world stage, with a clearly articulated and easily understand...more
John Grinstead
This is a really good analysis of the events that led up to the Cold War; an explanation of the pressures that built up during the 1950s and 60s; the brinkmanship; some of the political tensions that existed within the Communist sphere of influence - in particular the distrust/dislike that existed between China and the USSR - ;and, importantly, the events that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. It explains, in layman's terms, the significance of the roles pla...more
Jill
The Cold War: A New History provides an excellent example of the ideological biases of a historian creating a skewed misrepresentation of the facts about an era in order to conform with biased perceptions. This so-called “new history” is full of sweeping generalizations, unwarranted conclusions, and dubious assertions that scream out bias at every turn. In conclusion, beware of books claiming to be history books! This one doesn’t meet the most basic criteria of objective reporting of the facts.
Elliot Ratzman
The eminent Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis was at my alma mater, Ohio University, before moving to Yale. His editor suggested he distill his vast knowledge into this accessible intro. This is old-school history: documents, big leaders and events--all sprinkled with an almost invisible coating of analysis, speculation and ideology. It seems that the Great Powers knew they’d never use their weapons, and made awkward attempts to maintain the status quo, like a Romantic Comedy where small bit...more
Christopher Blosser
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew St.
From the perspective of one who did not live during (or, as a child, was not aware of) these world events, this book represents, to me, a fascinating collection of usable facts and their corresponding dates. As opposed to many other works of history that I have read, Gaddis' book provides a clear look at each situation occurring to a certain point before moving along the timeline. In a sense, this book is like an organized forum of correspondents who are allowed to discuss what happened within t...more
Jeffrey
The target audience of this book is the generation younger than me that has the Cold War as a historical event rather than part of their lives. As that, it is fairly well written, targeted well, and concise. Perhaps a bit too concise. The whole premise of the book comes off feeling as if decades passed without anything happening, then Ronald Reagan, the great professional actor comes and saves the day. The author clearly admires that particular president, and his usually restrained prose waxes e...more
Sarah Payok
Gaddis explains in his preface that he set out to write this book for his students, utilizing their feedback that the books they use in his classes have too many dates (among other things). He then wrote this book as a history of the Cold War, but focusing more on events and their impact upon subsequent events, rather than writing a chronological narrative. The result is a book that is engaging, interesting, and rarely feels like a "history book". Gaddis draws correlations between the actions of...more
Thomas
First of all, the title. The only thing that makes this "a new history" is the fact that it's newer than the author's other books on the subject. "A Brief History of the Cold War" would have better conveyed the nature of the book, but it sounded as if it should have been written by Stephen Hawking, so they went for the colon instead.

Gaddis has assembled a solid, straightforward account of the Cold War. The reader is very professional, so the audio version is very quick and pleasant. I would rec...more
Rayrumtum
Nov 12, 2009 Rayrumtum rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in history
Shelves: history
This was a good if frustrating read. If written for the young people who didn't experience the Cold War, the less than 300 pages devoted to the topic did not give them much of a flavor of what happened or the atmospherics of the period. For example, the Cuban Missile Crisis is dispatched in two pages, less than the space given to the Watergate scandal. Those who lived through this era are going to find the treatment of some topics much too superficial. Covering a 50-year war in less than 300 pag...more
Carol Bundy
I thought I was going to like this a lot more than I did. I was hoping to find a book that would treat the Cold War in a way comparable to McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" for the Civil War. I didn't. Certainly it is a comprehensive but shortish history of the Cold War. It is well written. And I am sure that it serves its purpose but I was put off by it. First Gaddis' tone -- his authorial voice -- disturbed me. Second, there is a lot he leaves out. Third, I felt his viewpoint was heavily sla...more
Greg Tatum
The Cold War frames the vast majority of the 20th Century and as of yet I had not read a book dedicated to its history. It's had a lot of impact on some of my recent reads such as Nixonland, The Legacy of Ashes, and Charlie Wilson's War.

I was hoping for something a bit juicier, but this is a very shallow overview of the Cold War that would suffice for a sophomore high school level class. There wasn't really any analysis. John Lewis Gaddis provided the basic facts and some conclusions, but there...more
Darran Mclaughlin
I thought this was ok. It's pacy and readable, but perhaps he's playing to the gallery too much. It's really simplified and very obviously written for the general reader. His biases are fairly obvious. He devotes a lot of space to the era's and achievments of Nixon and Reagan, and not much to Kennedy and Carter, and he portrays all the Soviet leaders as thick, cruel and hateful until Gorbachev. I read this not long after Postwar by Tony Judt, which is a vastly superior book that covers much of t...more
Caitlin
This is in many ways a good short synthesis of a very broad topic. Its strength probsbly lies in its readability for a lay audience. It's major weakness, however, lies in it's Americentrisim, which I found often a bit hard to take and definitely colored my enjoyment of it. If read with other works it can be interesting to compare narratives of the same events. In such a light the limitations of the view adopted by Gaddis come to light. I would recommend it with that caution.
Mark Bao
A comprehensive book on the major concepts of theCold War. I especially enjoyed the discussion on power plays, influences and misunderstandings, how huge upheavals were precipitated by disproportionally small events, and finally the causes behind the rise of markets/democracy and the decline of Marxism–Leninism.

In seven chapters (major themes), Gaddis explores (these are what I consider the major concepts):

Communism vs. democracy — the different approaches each took and what they resulted in
...more
Tim
Gaddis' book on the Cold War serves as overview of the time arranged chronologically by theme. It is a book grateful for what did not happen in the Cold War and less quick to dwell on its particular horrors. It is not a whitewash - the sins of Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot are noted, as well as American support for dictators and its overthrow of democratically elected governments, if not the domestic perils the Cold War brought about. I enjoyed his insights into diplomacy, the power of "client states...more
Keith Parker
I'd love to see a broad, sweeping account of the years 1945-1991, told in the same vein as THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, but unless I've missed it, an eclectic variety of books must suffice. Lewis' work is a readable overview of this incredibly important era. This book is a good jumping-off point for further reading on the Cold War's almost inexhaustible supply of story lines, from the Rosenbergs to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Like all overviews this book mis...more
Carlos
This was an interesting book. Not the history of the Cold War that I expected, but an interpretative look back at what happened, and an attempt to find meanings. The result is that some of the most important episodes of the Cold War - Korean War, Prague Spring, Vietnam, Afghanistan - go by at blink-and-you'll-miss-it speed, while the author tries to explain what was happening while those episodes happened. It's an interesting approach, but you need to know something about those episodes in order...more
Liam Lawer
This a fantastic book on the Cold War, giving an often clear and always interesting account of the important events from roughly 1945-1991 (with some 'backgrounding' - that might not be a real word) that still manages to be concise. Though there are times where Gaddis' message becomes a touch confusing, it would be arrogant to assume that this is always his fault, after all I'm not an expert on the Cold War and he most certainly is; living up to his moniker - the 'Dean of the Cold War.'

This book...more
Ilya
In November 1950 the United Nations coalition, consisting mostly of the United States Army and the South Korean army, had almost won the Korean war, occupying most of North Korea. However, since October hundreds of thousands of Chinese "volunteers" had been crossing the Yalu River, and in November they started attacking the United Nations positions and pushing the United Nations troops south. At a press conference on November 30, 1950, President Truman said that he did not rule out using the ato...more
William
The Cold War was a Gordian knot of interacting conflicts that was hard to explain while it was happening, and hard to summarize once it ended suddenly. Forty-five years of brinksmanship and stalemate punctuated a struggle that never quite became World War III. John Lewis Gaddis deftly unties this confusing bundle of interaction in just 266 pages of text, making "The Cold War--A New History" the ideal starter book on this period of history.

Gaddis organizes his book into a series of themes, which...more
Jim
The memories of The Falklands and Thatcher brought about by Vulcan inspired me to pick up this treatise at Heathrow Airport on the Cold War, and I was glad I did. Where the Vulcan 607 was all Bulldog Drummond, this historical overview was viewed firmly from Uncle Sam's spectacles, where world events revolve around American foreign policy, almost exclusively. It seems that every world event happened because of what the Americans did, or did not, do. So even Gorbachev pulled down the Soviet Union...more
Jason
Gaddis has done an excellent job of telling an extremely complicated history in a tight and well-written volume. The importance of his story is contrasted by his reminding the reader that his college students today have almost no living memory of the Cold War or just how serious a historical epic it was between two great powers.

As the world has changed dramatically over the past 16 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, this book will be an excellent resource to remember just what a huge str...more
Timothy Fitzgerald
I had just finished reading both "The First World War" and the "Second World War" by John Keegan, and wanted to dig deeper into the consequences and the aftermath of those conflicts. "The Cold War," by John Lewis Gaddis, was recommended to me, so I dove right in.

I really enjoyed this read because it included just the right balance of readability and information. Gaddis sprinkles in little anecdotes such as Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev awkwardly meeting in Mao's pool, but does so in a way that...more
Max Nova
Gaddis does it again. The Cold War: A New History is an imminently readable account of the Cold War that places it in a larger historical, ideological, and strategic context. If you're alive today, you should probably read this book so that you can understand where we're coming from.

I'm not quite sure what it is about Gaddis's style, but this book reads much more like a novel than a dry history book. And of course, he manages to sneak in some of the Grand Strategy reading list too - from Thucyd...more
Ali Shahid
It is a beautifully written book, with perfect anecdotes and interesting Cold War trivia thrown in good quantities. The book is useful for those born after 1985, wanting to understand the the dynamics, context and realities of Cold War politics.
The idealogy of Lenin and Wilson is compared, analysed and concluded. Similarly,an assessment of the nuclear doctrines of Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan, is made in a clear and crisp manner.
Gaddis has intelligently referenced Clausewitz, Ma...more
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“Enrollments in American colleges tripled between 1955 and 1970, 250% in the Soviet Union, 400% in France, and more than 200% in China by 1965. Gaddis writes, "What governments failed to foresee was that more young people, plus, more education, when combined with a stalemated Cold War, could be a prescription for insurrection. Learning does not easily compartmentalize. How do you prepare students to think for purposes approved by the state, or by their parents, without also equipping them to think for themselves? Youths throughout history had often wished question their elders values. Now, with university educations, their elders had handed them the training to do so. The result was discontent with the world as it was.” 3 likes
“The sign of a good novel is what it can cause its reader to see, even if this lies beyond the author's own vision.” 1 likes
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