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The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  242 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan, NY Times bestselling author James Mann directs his keen analysis to Ronald Reagan’s role in ending the Cold War. Drawing on new interviews & previously unavailable documents, Mann offers a fresh & compelling narrative—a new history assessing what Reagan did, & didn't do, to help bring America’s four-decade conflict with the Soviet Union t ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 5th 2009 by Viking/Penguin Group (NYC) (first published 2009)
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Erik Graff
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
I'd previously read Mann's The Rise of the Vulcans, liked it, so picked this up for some insight into the Reagan administration. On this, albeit with a very narrow focus, Mann delivers. Basically, what this is is a detailed description of how Ronald Reagan, in opposition to his political base and to most of his staff, switched from being a hawk to becoming a dove in disarmament negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev.

While confirming the usual liberal estimation of Reagan as lazy, poorly educated, s
Josh Lovvorn
May 10, 2010 rated it liked it
In the past, as a died blue in the wool liberal, I would have scoffed at the idea of Reagan as good president. Afterall, the powers that be in the liberal establishment hark on the savings and loans scandels, the Iran-Contra affair, and the way the man took a hawkish stance to foreign policy. Furthermore, since casting my first vote for president in 2000, I had been hearing the unashamed hero worship of this man for the past 10 years. He is the standard against which all Repulicans compare each ...more
May 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Early in his highly readable chronicle of Ronald Reagan's role in the end of the Cold War, Mann mentions how Reagan reused the Russian proverb "Trust, but verify," one of the few Russian phrases he knew, so often it annoyed Mikhail Gorbechev. Mann himself repeats Reagan's love of and use of this phrase so often that it becomes easy to see why Gorbechev got so annoyed.

This is one of the flaws in what is otherwise an excellent book. Mann repeats himself a lot, offering the same anecdotes and quote
Apr 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Tag line for the book is did Regan really end the Cold War or just be in the right place at the right time. Truth, as the author points out well so far, is somewhere in between. A fascinating look at a president whose been canonized inaccurately, more of a dove than a hawk in the administration's later years.

Review still stands -- pretty solid, fairly unbiased look at how a TV movie-of-the-week saved us all from nuclear war. It would appear Regan had the fortitude to extend a willing hand to Go
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
As someone who was very apolitical in the 80's, my political education took a high-speed gear shift since marrying a very politically conservative fellow who worked for Reagan in the late 80's. Reagan is a fascinating individual from his anti-communist battles as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, to his tenuous initial dealings with the Soviet bloc and Gorbachev. His role in bringing down the Iron Wall, and who to trust during the new era of peristroika (versus Nixon and Kissinger's very ...more
Mark Taylor
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ronald Reagan! Genial gladhander of the 1980’s, America’s great golden age! The only true conservative! The man with an anecdote for every occasion-and sometimes they were even true! Was he a wily genius who single-handedly defeated the Soviet Union? Or a stooge who was overly reliant on his advisors and just happened to be president at the right time? The truth lies somewhere in the middle, as it usually does.

James Mann attempts to get closer to that truth in his 2009 book The Rebellion of Ron
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really excellent and nuanced look at the Reagan years in terms of his approach to the Soviet Union. Basically a history of how Reagan went from calling the USSR an "evil empire" in 1983 to throwing his arm around Gorbachev's shoulder in the middle of Red Square in 1988.
Important reading.
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
This book is set in the second term of the Reagan presidency. The author presents an interesting window into the end of the Cold War. The usual arguments are that Reagan brought it on, vs. it was inevitable and that Reagan had little to do with it. Here the author fine tunes the thesis that Reagan brought about the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War by staging his own rebellion. The author's premise, and it is well supported and well developed, is that Reagan did so by acting on his own in ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great story about a great man but not well written.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An engrossing study showing how Reagan differed from other Cold Warriors, and therefore was able to adapt to the changes implemented by Gorbachev.
Scriptor Ignotus
A decent recitation of events, but disappointing in its substantive analysis (or lack thereof). Mann tells us at the beginning of the book that his goal is to present an interpretation of Reagan's role in ending the Cold War that avoids the two partisan mythologies of Reagan's presidency that either overemphasize or dismiss his importance. He succeeds insofar as he portrays Reagan as being somewhere in between these two extremes, but rarely in his narrative does he offer any original analysis of ...more
Richard Lim
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
In The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan, James Mann goes to pains to argue that Ronald Reagan was essentially a liberal during the end of the Cold War and that, it is a good thing he was. As a result of Reagan's dovish policies in his second term, Mann argues, Gorbachev had the necessary space to pursue domestic reforms. Mann highlights the vociferous opposition Reagan faced from his own party and conservative thinkers during his meetings with Gorbachev and his desire to reduce (and even eliminate) nu ...more
Otto Lehto
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
A decent account of the latter days of Reagan's presidency, from the perspective of the executive branch and the president's inner circle. The book focuses especially on the events that led to the rapprochement with Soviet Union, the diplomacy with Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War. The most insightful parts are the "hidden" struggle with the so-called establishment "realists" of the Republican cold-warrior right-wing, including Nixon, Schultz and Kissinger. The book gives a surprisingly pea ...more
One of my definitions for a great history book is for its ability to cut through the mythology to get at the truth of the event or person being profiled. In this remarkably compact history of Pres. Reagan's role in bringing about the end of the Cold War, Mr. Mann does just that. Two schools of thought on Pres. Reagan's role in this conclude either his role was insignificant or that he was THE decisive factor. Mr. Mann's research shows that Pres. Reagan's part in this was neither, but rather he o ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audio-cd
Very strange book/Audio tape. (I listened to this as opposed to reading it.) The title is sort of misleading. I was thinking this would be more about Ronald Reagan and maybe a little bit of a history associated with and with out him in it. Well it wasn't really and I would say a 1 star because of the title. The first 4 CD's were pretty much about Nixon and he made it seem like he had a lot of power and influence on Reagan maybe early on in his presidency run. That Nixon was really calling the sh ...more
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: presidents
Ronald Reagan has proven to be enigmatic for historians, with most of their work being unsatisfying or, as with the case of Edmund Morris' Dutch, bizarre. James Mann fares much better here, largely because 'The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan' focuses primarily on Reagan's evolving understanding and approach to the Soviet Union and Gorbachev in particular. It's an extended monograph, really; and, mostly, well done. The book is in four parts. Part I deals with the differences between Nixon and Reagan ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Informative, interesting and well written. Great read.
James Mann studies the end of the Cold War in a way that provides a journalist's insight while tearing down myths about the Reagan administration. To be honest, this is a refreshing approach of a topic that is saturated with either praise for or condemnation against Reagan/Gorbachev. Mann gives us a look behind the curtain with interviews from prominent participants and citations from relevant new sources. As something who tires of the polarization of presidential historiography, this book was a ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
how to avoid nuclear conflict with 3 constituents against, I just think they are wrong, Nixon on Alger Hess prosecution, 62 party with screen actors guild and communist members who did not tell truth and bombs untrustworthy too accommodating to Soviets, communism contrary to human nature, old school Nixon and Kissinger, desire to ban all nuclear weapons, Marx/Lenin spoke of the ash heap of history, Suzanne Massie, religion as Soviet’s Achilles heel due to Pope’s visits to Poland, understand dail ...more
Sean Keogh
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I'll admit that even though I grew up in the 80s, I was pretty sure that Rocky Balboa ended the cold war when he defeated Ivan Drago in Moscow. Turns out that is not completely true. It seems this Gorbachov character played a big role in it. The book is mostly about Reagan and Reagan's role in bringing about the end of the cold war but the conclusion I came to was that the best thing Reagan did was trust Gorbachov. This was no small thing as the United States had built up such a strong narrative ...more
Josh Liller
The Rebellion of the title is both the book's rebellion against traditional thought on Reagan and Reagan's rebellion against most of his fellow Republicans in regards to how to deal with Gorbachev and the USSR.

In short, Reagan was one of the few people able to recognize Gorbachev was different and see steps toward ending the Cold War whereas most of his Republican contemporaries did not (I feel more of them needed to read Sun Tzu and understand the concept of victory without fighting). It's inte
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a good example of an author carefully trying to explore the nuances and complexities of the characters (primarily Reagan, of course, but Gorbachev and a few others as well to a lesser degree) and processes of an historical phenomenon without being hagiographic, iconoclastic, or positivist. It was interesting to see how Reagan had to rely on something other than just "hard data" (instinct? ability to read people? inspiration?) to make decisions that helped create the climate in which ...more
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, biography
I was born in 1979 so the 80s took place during my childhood and I was oblivious to the world around me. I learned a great deal!! This book was thorough, though repetitive, and made a well-researched argument about the importance of Gorbachev in the ending of the Cold War. I had no idea what a big part he had played, with his efforts to disarm the world's nuclear weapons. It is also clear that Reagan was the right man to deal with him. He came to believe that Gorbachev was not the typical evil c ...more
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author attempts to tell an unbiased account of Reagan's role in the collapse of communism and the U.S.'s winning of the cold war, but doesn't delve deep enough. This reader came away convinced that Secretary of State George Shultz was behind most of the diplomatic tactics used by Reagan, who's main role was to act as the public face of the administration. George Bush, while pretending to take a harder line on Gorbachev once Reagan left office, actually implemented many of Shultz's plans duri ...more
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
An excellent, well documented, work showing what role Ronald Reagan exactly played in the unravelling of the cold war. The reader gets a lot of inside information (now declassified) showing the subtle contribution of Ronald Reagan and the complex relationship between Reagan and Gorbatchev in the events that lead eventually to the fall of the Berlin Wall and to the implosion of the Soviet Union. The author works carefully on the basis of the numerous documents he analysed and does not overplay th ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must read for students of the Cold War and of Reagan. It is ironic that Reagan is now such a conservative icon given that, as Mann reminds us, he was positively vilified by the Right for reaching out Gorbachev. Also an interesting case study in how personalities can shape history. Most interesting to me was his relationship with Suzanne Massie and how she helped him understand what was really going on in the Soviet Union while she circumvented Reagan's official advisers with his acqu ...more
Robert Benz
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have just finished reading this book. I was quite impressed and found out a few things about Reagan, Gorbachev, and Bush that I did not know before. Gorbachev ended the Cold war through circumstances that he really helped put into place. Reagan encouraged Gorbachev to do what was needed. Also, Reagan almost turned 360 degrees on his views of Russia. I thought this was just an excellent read and I would encourage others to read it.
Marie Hew
Apr 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I may not think that Reagan was the most progressive president of my lifetime, but Mann's history of his last years in office in regard to the Cold War was unexpected and set the U.S. to dial back nuclear armament against the Soviet Union.

Interesting read for history buffs and those who were alive during the Cold War...even if it were only the end of it.
Jun 29, 2009 is currently reading it
For a child of the 80's this book is great a read, shows how reagan, the cold war warrior and communist-hater, eventually came to the conclusion that meeting the enemy face-to-face was the only way to resolve conflict.
Has great insight from the man himself, his rise in power, and his friendship with Tricky Dick Nixon.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an engaging history of the Reagan presidency from the perspective of United States-Soviet relations and disarmament. The basic premise of the book was that Reagan was an abolitionist when it came to nuclear weapons and he rebelled against the right wing in engaging with Gorbachev and doing the INF treaty. The book is an easy read and end noted for further reading.
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James Mann is the author of six books on American politics and national security issues, including Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet and The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power. A longtime correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, he is currently a fellow in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. ...more

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