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The Cold War: A New History

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  3,939 Ratings  ·  376 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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To say this book is bad would be a little unfair, though it does seem to rely on the reader being ignorant and gullible, however I did find it surprisingly ungood particularly considering his earlier book We now know which I assume was written by the same person (view spoiler).

His basic message is that it was the free market what won it, and that it could have been far worse - meaning that more Americans might have died, even all of them perhaps (view spoiler)
Jun 03, 2007 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
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 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.
Oct 08, 2009 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
Mar 06, 2009 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
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was beyond amazing! Very clear and concise! If you want a run down of the Cold War I would recommend this book! Seriously, this will forever be my go-to on the topic.

I especially loved how this book took no sides, but simply laid out all the horrors and absurdities, and finally the amazements of the outcome.
Sarah Beaudoin
Oct 18, 2007 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
Carol Bundy
Jun 03, 2012 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
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A perfectly readable and pretty thorough history of cold war. Learned so much from it. The new evidence which were used for this book also sheds new light on some of the incidents during the cold war years which made the book even more interesting of a read.
If you are under thirty and like me know very little about cold war, this book is for you.
Dec 30, 2010 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
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
Elliot Ratzman
Jun 21, 2011 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
Andrew St.
Mar 25, 2012 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
John Grinstead
Jul 26, 2011 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
Jul 09, 2012 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.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because I had read good reviews about how it provided a survey of the Cold War; touching lightly on a wide range of events that highlighted the period. The author teaches at Yale and his students has asked him if he could put together a book that "said a lot but with not so many words." In that regard, I think that this book is a success. I was familiar with most of the topics of the book, but I had previously not understood how certain Cold War events connected to one anot ...more
Christopher Blosser
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exellent readible narrative that covers all the major themes of the Cold War.
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cold-war
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
Craig Werner
May 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sixties, history
Gaddis is best known for his biography of George Keenan and that points to the problems I had with this one volume history of the Cold War from its ideological origins in the World War I era through the fall of the Soviet Union. It's a daunting task for a small book, and at the outset I had hopes that it would be a model of how to condense a massive amount of material into a book that I could recommend to undergrads and other non-specialists. By the time I finished, I reluctantly concluded that ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
For an ever-increasing proportion of the American public, including the entire Millennial generation, the Cold War is ancient history. Published in 2005, John Lewis Gaddis’ The Cold War: A New History is written for those Americans. Rather than an overly-exhaustive study meant for other historians, it offers a short, yet comprehensive, look at the Cold War meant for the general public. Gaddis successfully covers all the major causes, significant events, and results of the Cold War in an easy-to- ...more
Nicole Sweeney
I kept all of my Cold War books from college and recently I decided to start doing actual cover-to-cover readings of them. I stated with this one, mostly because it was both on the shorter end and broad in its scope.

Gaddis set out to cover more years in fewer pages and create an accessible book for contemporary American college students, for whom The Cold War has always been history rather than current events.

He succeeds in that objective. The book is immensely readable and the thematic grouping
Jul 18, 2014 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
Wim Boutens
Jan 07, 2016 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
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
I wouldn't say this is the most riveting history book I've ever read but it certainly was not the most boring! It was very well-written and concise, expertly condensing the very long and complicated Cold War. Although Gaddis prefaced the book by saying there wasn't really anything original in here (and it's not like I've read other Cold War books), my favorite parts of the book were where I could see his voice coming in strong--like his treatment of Gorbachev. The problem is, with such a short b ...more
Nov 02, 2009 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 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
Jun 01, 2013 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
Jul 22, 2009 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
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A tremendous work 1 3 Aug 27, 2017 05:30AM  
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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.” 4 likes
“Despite the legacy of slavery, the near extermination of native Americans, and persistent racial, sexual, and social discrimination, the citizens of the United States could plausibly claim, in 1945, to live in the freest society on the face of the earth.” 3 likes
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