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

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  2,122 ratings  ·  229 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 fr ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Jun 03, 2007 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Özgür Şahin
A good summary of the Cold War which includes the fundementals of this part of the history. In particular, the explanation of the evolution of the strategies leading the nuclear balance and the logic underpinning the "Detente" is very eloquent. Finally, it gives a hint why current developments with regard to the Ukraine cannot be described as a new Cold War.
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
The cold war was crazy. I learned so much about that time period from this book. Really good book. It’s written like a history book with all kinds of facts and the author goes through and explains most things so that the reader can understand. I underlined so many different parts in the book because I was so intrigued. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) was one of the craziest things I learned. I also learned more about communism and why so many countries feared communism. Great book if you want t ...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
Danijel Jedriško
"Cold War: A New History" is one of those books with ambition to review everything we know about the Cold War, put all that knowledge into a new context and draw some new conclusions. At least that's what you think when you read the title. Gaddis didn't achieve this in "Cold War:A New History" but I'm not sure was that his ambition, or the ambition of the publisher (put provocative title to sell the book better).

J. L. Gaddis tried to give complete view of the Cold War with all the new perspecti
Author John Lewis Gaddis teaches Cold War history courses at Yale University and is a noted expert on the subject. His sweeping 2006 summary of the Cold War, appropriately titled The Cold War: A New History, is, and I mean this in the best way possible, a lot like a university survey course on the subject.

Though the author's well-known views on the causes and effects of the Cold War certainly colour how he describes the key players and events of the period, he nonetheless keeps his narrative at
A decent book if one wants to get a short summary of the Cold war. Covers all the major events at the surface level all the way till the fall of USSR. The book serves as a good place from where you can pick and choose your next read - like the Berlin war or Viet war, or the Korean war or Cuban missile crises. The events might seem like skirmishes when you rush through this book, but ever event has its historical importance.

Overall, I felt it is a capitalistic view of the Cold War, which one can
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
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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 most important one was the belief, which went back to Lenin, that capitalists would never be able to cooperate with one another for very long. Their inherent greediness—the irresistible urge to place profits above politics—would sooner or later prevail, leaving communists with the need only for patience as they awaited their adversaries’ self-destruction.” 1 likes
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