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The Cold War: A New History

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,943 ratings  ·  465 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 December 29th 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
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.

Peter Tillman
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
My 2009 booklog says "A+, masterful." OK, let's see what else I have:
"...require[s] a scholar of extraordinary gifts to tell why nine cold-war presidents deployed our national treasure against an empire that broke apart so clumsily in the end.

John Lewis Gaddis is that scholar, and "The Cold War: A New History" is the book they should read. A professor of history at Yale, Gaddis is the author of six renowned volumes on the cold war -- especially the strate
Doreen Petersen
Jul 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: post-wwii
I hate giving any book a one star but this book was that bad. Very poorly written. Subject matter jumped all over the place. I wouldn't bother with this one.
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 18, 2019 rated it liked it
My views on this piece are really mixed. On one hand, it's a great skeleton of events for those who are new to the history of the Cold War. If a reader has never learned anything about the Cold War and just wants a quick overview, I'll probably directly them to this book. On the other hands, it faces a lot of issues which can be categorized into two groups: organizational and analytical.

My qualms with the organization of the book is that it emphasizes superpower politics over all other consider
Michael Kotsarinis
I found this book very interesting and quite easy to read. It doesn't deal with exhaustive lists of facts, dates and persons or the minutiae of the Cold War but paints a broad picture of it. It certainly doesn't miss any of key events but it tries to put everything into perspective and show the underlying relations. I particularly liked the effort to explain the rationale behind the decisions of the key players and the predominant way of thinking.
Max Nova
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Gaddis does it again. The Cold War: A New History is an eminently 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 Thucydi
Most contemporary university students – such as myself – were not born when the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. As the author of “The Cold War: A New History”, John Lewis Gaddis, rather facetiously puts it: “…My students … [have] very little sense of how the Cold War started, what it was about, or why it ended the way it did. For them it’s history: not all that different from the Peloponnesian War.” While the Cold War should not be equated with the Peloponnes ...more
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
Darran Mclaughlin
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, history
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
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.
Aditya Pareek
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An objective account of the greatest era of geopolitical upheaval by the most respected scholar of the field. If there was one book you would need to understand the cold war, this is it.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was really surprised at the end when Germany reunited and the USSR broke up. Good writing and a twist ending that I never saw coming. Sorry for the spoilers.
Joseph Guido
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Do you think I should teach my classes online?” Professor Gaddis asked all of us teaching assistants on a warm and sunny Fall afternoon in September, 2014 after presenting one of his favorite lectures on President Eisenhauer for his undergraduate class “History of the Cold War.” The class was actually the most popular undergraduate class on campus, filling Yale’s largest lecture hall. His question was pointed: we all agreed that he should not teach online but in person. He nodded quietly in app ...more
David  Schroeder
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the definitive narrative on The Cold War. I was surprised about how much I knew yet Gaddis' approach of proper context and good storytelling was what made this book great. The Pulitzer Prize was evident. What makes him most helpful as a writer is that he teaches students on a regular basis and you feel as though you are receiving the grand lecture. Well worth the read to understand how we got here. As a "Cold War kid," I have always been fascinated by the topic and I'll grateful for the ...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.
Josh Derrick
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: worlds-that-were
I was a bit disappointed with this history. It followed the standard narrative of communism==bad, inefficient and oppressive and democracy==good and kind of glossed over a lot of the conflicts in Africa and the Americas that I was very interested in learning more about. Gaddis however, does build a compelling narrative around themes and people, rather than just around facts.
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
A concise, quite readable history of the Cold War that gives a decent overview of important events and persons, but is somewhat lacking in the analysis department and gives too much room to the author's ideological bias.
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A tremendous work 1 7 Aug 27, 2017 05:30AM  

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“Stalin’s postwar goals were security for himself, his regime, his country, and his ideology, in precisely that order.” 4 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.” 4 likes
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