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The Cold War: A New History

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,929 Ratings  ·  294 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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Auz They had different ideas on what to do with Germany after WW2. The allies wanted to make Germany a wealthy, prosperous and a democartic nation whereas…moreThey had different ideas on what to do with Germany after WW2. The allies wanted to make Germany a wealthy, prosperous and a democartic nation whereas the Soviet Union wanted to weaken Germany as the USSR was invaded 3 times by Germnay before the Cold War. The startegy used by the USSR was to impose communism on Germany so that they stay poor and to impose another treaty that resembled the Treaty of Versailles to again make Germany weaker by restricting their military power.

However, both the USA and USSR used scare tactics to threaten eachother. One example was the invention of the atomic bomb in 1945 by USA. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 03, 2007 Matt rated it really liked it
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
Nov 17, 2009 Jon rated it liked it
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
History is written by the winners. This book is no way an exception to this adage. True, I was born in the vanquished state, yet I was in a tender age, when the collapse occurred hence unlike adults I lost little in the process. Or I was lucky enough to have parents and family to shield me from the embittering and devastating effects of the chaos that ensued. Anyway I approached the book with as open mind as possible, given the situation.

Previously I was smitten with revelations of how the Cold
Jul 19, 2011 Jill rated it it was ok
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
Jun 21, 2011 Elliot Ratzman rated it liked it
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
Dec 30, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
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
Mar 09, 2009 Jeffrey rated it liked it
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 Beaudoin
Dec 18, 2008 Sarah Beaudoin rated it it was amazing
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
John Grinstead
Jul 26, 2011 John Grinstead rated it really liked it
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
Joseph Stieb
Apr 18, 2016 Joseph Stieb rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best history book I've read this year. Gaddis has always been one of my favorite historians, and in this book he does some remarkable things. The writing is really clear and engaging, with great quotes and anecdotes in. He manages to portray the thinking, personality, and background of major Cold War players on all sides and balance the significance of great leaders and ordinary people. It's also very short for such a massive topic, but when you finish you don't feel that he ...more
Wim Boutens
Feb 04, 2016 Wim Boutens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gaddis ergert zich eraan dat de Koude Oorlog uit het bewustzijn van de jongere generaties aan het verdwijnen is en denkt dit te kunnen voorkomen door dit beknopte boek te schrijven. Hij informeert niet over de Koude Oorlog door een chronologische geschiedenis te schrijven van jaar op jaar, maar door een thematische aanpak. Het is daarom geen nauwkeurige beschrijving van belangrijke gebeurtenissen, zo krijgen de blokkade van West-Berlijn, het neerschieten van U2 van piloot Powers, de Hongaarse op ...more
Christopher Blosser
Dec 08, 2012 Christopher Blosser rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew St.
Mar 25, 2012 Andrew St. rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 02, 2009 Thomas rated it liked it
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
Nov 12, 2009 Rayrumtum rated it liked it
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
Dec 20, 2013 Jsavett1 rated it it was amazing
This book was simply phenomenal. I haven't read Gaddis before but I'm aware of his reputation as THE academic par excellence regarding Cold War history. Well, his writing and analysis was a real treat, a testament to fresh, clear sentence writing and sober thought. I'd say that books about history make up about 15% of my reading material, so while I'm not an expert on everything being written recently, I can confidently say that Gaddis's book is an amazing contribution to our understanding of th ...more
Carol Bundy
Jun 03, 2012 Carol Bundy rated it liked it
Shelves: 1945-50-project
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
Oct 12, 2009 David rated it liked it
Recommends it for: undergrad history profs to assign
Recommended to David by: NY Times Book Review 15 Jan 05
Shelves: read-history
Some read mystery or romance novels during airplane flights: I read books like this. It's a short, fast-moving overview of the main events of the Cold War, from an American point of view. The author says he intended it as an introduction for those too young to know about the Cold War first hand. I think that it is probably a good choice for his intended audience, and I enjoyed reviewing events that I already knew about. His literary metaphors and references to fiction were kind of clunky and cou ...more
Greg Tatum
Oct 27, 2010 Greg Tatum rated it liked it
Shelves: history, audiobooks
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
Jared Paddick
Jul 24, 2015 Jared Paddick rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look into the post WWII events that shaped the twentieth and even twenty first centuries.

Even though the author orchestrated this book in a somewhat linear timeline, there were important tangents into the individual leaders and their motivations, as well as the individual country's sentiments.

Really, the only problem I had with this book was the sheer scale and number of events. But that wasn't the author's fault, he couldn't change history.

In actuality, the best part of
Darran Mclaughlin
Jul 27, 2011 Darran Mclaughlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, american
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
Aug 04, 2016 Justin rated it it was amazing
Best Cold War history I've read, powerful in its brevity, insights, and depth. Highly recommended.
Mike Hankins
I like Gaddis usually, but this book is a bit weaker than some of his others. The biggest problem is that it seems to fail at its goal, and thus it feels unfocused. He states that he wants to have a single volume to explain the cold war to those young kids who have no memory or awareness of it. But then, he structures the book thematically, not chronologically, and focuses more on interpretation rather than narration -- in effect it feels like he's assuming his readers have quite a bit of famili ...more
El Aguila
May 03, 2015 El Aguila rated it liked it
I read this book in preparation for my new position as an AP World History and AP European history teacher. It was very useful towards this end. But, as a soon to be former Latin American history professor, there were some problems.

Gaddis is obviously one of the preeminent Cold War scholars today. But as is true of older American experts, his scholarship clearly favors a US inevitable victory of democracy over totalitarianism. And there is significant proof that substantiates such overly simplis
Marci Miller
Main points I got from this book:
-The subject is an extremely political one, and I feel a lot of historians would be very biased when touching upon it. Clearly that's the case with Gaddis, which takes a very pro-US government view.
-It is concise and touches on a lot of the events that took place in those years, so it proves to be a good reminder of the milestones of the conflict. The book is full of interpretations too, which of course, are subject to the reader's scrutiny.
-Much of its focus is
Jul 18, 2014 Kevin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For most of the book it is what it sets out to be, a decent sketch of the major players and themes that run through the cold war. The reason I rated it at two stars instead of the three or four is due to the portrayal of Ronald Reagan.

Throughout the book a conservative bias is present but doesn't unduly affect the quality of the book. Before Reagan the presidents and other actors have their successes and failures examined in enough depth to give a reasonably accurate picture of their role. Once
Marcus Pailing
Jun 07, 2014 Marcus Pailing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jul 10, 2012 Caitlin rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 29, 2016 Fahim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book that made me want to become a historian!! :D

I first read it around 2010 but I still pick it up regularly for fun. Super compact and useful, with TONS of references, analogies, and connecting abstract concepts. Used it for many school projects on nuclear policy, M.A.D., uprisings in the Bloc, Clausewitz, Eisenhower, NATO, and so on.

I think the greatest strength of this book is how it doesn't follow a chronological order (like every other book on the topic). It follows a thematic progress
Aug 01, 2014 Jonesy_laaa rated it really liked it
As a historian who is fascinated with this era of history in general, I have been looking forward to reading Gaddis' work further after reading a chapter of a previous book for an essay at University.

And this certainly didn't disappoint me. Gaddis and his narrative is totally refreshing and had me hooked from the off.

With many history books, I've read on the subject, I've felt that this did not follow an linear structure like many of Gaddis' peers. Gaddis for me offers an exciting and fresh wa
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“Both the United States and the Soviet Union had been born in revolution. Both embraced ideologies with global aspirations: what worked at home, their leaders assumed, would also do so for the rest of the world.” 3 likes
“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
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