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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038276
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If it's difficult to imagine a history of the Cold War that can be described as thrilling, that should add more luster to Yale historian Gaddis's crown. Gaddis, who's written some half-dozen studies of the Cold War, delivers an utterly engrossing account of Soviet-U.S. relations from WWII to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. The ideological clash between democratic capitalism and communism predated the war, of course, but the emergence of nuclear weapons created a new political situation. Suddenly, it was easy to imagine total war that might destroy not only the enemy but also the victor. Gaddis assesses what he sees as the positive contributions Thatcher, Reagan and Pope John Paul II made to furthering the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. and concludes with a sympathetic portrait of Gorbachev; his refusal to use force ultimately cost him both communism and his country, but, says Gaddis, it also made him "the most deserving recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize." The interpretations on offer are not startlingly original—we've read this before, mostly in other books by Gaddis himself—but a new, concise narration was Gaddis's aim here, and he succeeds royally. His synthesis is sure to reign with general history readers and in undergraduate classrooms. 8 maps not seen by PW. (Dec. 29)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Gaddis, professor of history at Yale and the Cold War’s preeminent historian, delivers a concise, readable introduction to an era about which Americans have increasingly little recollection. The author has had the somewhat unusual opportunity to examine his period of expertise both from within—in his books Strategies of Containment (1982) and The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (1987), for instance—and now, with the benefit of new archival documents and hindsight, as a series of historical events. Although the relative brevity of the volume might suggest that Gaddis values concision over detail, the study gives new focus and meaning to one of the United States’ watershed periods.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

John Gaddis has written an excellent and accessible history of the Cold War.
Michael A. Heald
Gaddis explicitly set out to write a short, thematic, but still informative book on his area of expertise, and he has done so without fault.
Max J Rosenthal
It's not a book filled with facts and dates that makes you forget what you read two chapters ago.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Odysseus on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book with the expectation that it would provide a comprehensive overview of the events, episodes, personalities, motivations, and results of the Cold War. A reader looking for something similar might be disappointed. This book does not really attempt to be a comprehensive history of the Cold War, but is rather a collection of chapters, each devoted to a particular thematic aspect of the war. It reads as though Gaddis has a particular thesis about the Cold War that he wants to flesh out in each chapter, rather than telling the whole story in an orderly narrative.

As examples: there is a chapter about the "logic" of Mutual Assured Destruction, and how mankind's survival depended on two superpowers maneuvering their way through that system's pitfalls. There is another chapter contrasting the Leninist vision of authoritarianism with the Wilsonian vision of self-determination. There is a chapter about how the superpowers' respective allies eventually refused to do their bidding. There is a chapter about the moral paradoxes at the heart of American Cold War international policy. There is another about the key individual actors who forced the Cold War to a successful resolution. And there is one, sort of a "people power" chapter, about how the Cold War ended (Gaddis argues) largely because the internal contradictions of communism, the gap between its promises and its reality, would no longer be tolerated by its subjects.

I found many of these chapters to be thought-provoking, and often found them persuasive. At first, I resisted Gaddis's thesis about the spillover of amorality from the international sphere to the American domestic sphere, and how this precipitated the fall of Richard Nixon.
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89 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Izaak VanGaalen on February 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Yale history professor John Lewis Gaddis is America's foremost historian of the Cold War. Since the publication of "The United States and the Origins of the Cold War" in 1972, he has written a half dozen more books on the subject, each time finding a new perspective on the superpower standoff that took place between 1946 and 1991.

Prior to the 1970's, American historians, for the most part, put the blame of the origins of the Cold War on the Soviet system in general and on Josef Stalin in particular. Gaddis' early work was original insofar as it gave a more balanced perspective on the American/Soviet confrontation. After World War II, both superpowers acted rationally to protect their interests, having sacrificed many lives in hard-fought battles. Each side was protecting a way of life they thought morally superior.

In the current work under review, Gaddis' views seem to be evolving. Looking back at the Cold War in light of events since 1991, he concludes that it was primarily the power of ideas that won, since nuclear weapons had made military confrontation unthinkable. The liberal democracies and market economies of the West were better able to provide for their citizens than the command economies of the totalitarian system. The West offered their citizens hope while the Soviets instilled theirs with fear. Gaddis now believes it was the Soviets who were primarily responsible for starting the Cold War.

But why did the Cold War last so many years? Why didn't people rise up earlier? One reason, of course, was nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons prolonged the Cold War. The West had few options other than detente and containment.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Emilys Dad on February 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written book that unfortunately is not the book I hoped it would be. If, like me, you are looking for a book that retells the history and events of the cold war then you will be disappointed. If you already possess a knowledge or vivid memory of those events and are looking for an opinion on the thoughts of individuals and the ideology that led to those events then you will be delighted. For example, I would expect a book on the Cold War to spend 10+ pages on the Berlin airlift. There was one sentence that mentioned it occurred. Checkpoint Charlie and the stories associated with it - not mentioned. Gary Powers and the U2 plane - one paragraph. Etc. Etc. Again, this is a well written book and the author didn't fail to deliver so much as I failed to buy the right book. I offer this review so that others looking for the same book I was aren't disappointed.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a sweeping summary of what the author believes to be the principal events of the over forty year long confrontation between Communism and Capitalism called the Cold War. Gaddis is in every sense of the word an expert on the Cold War phenomenon and has used his expertise to write a concise, readable, and accurate summary of it. He correctly gives the late George F. Kennan credit for crafting the confrontation strategy of dynamic containment that in end allowed the Capitalist West to prevail over the Soviet Union and its client states. He also provides fascinating glimpses of how American Presidents from Truman to George H. W. Bush applied this strategy and how the Soviet leadership reacted to its application. Not all historians agree that Gaddis has interpreted many aspects of this period correctly, but most would acknowledge his knowledge of the period.
So is this the definitive book on the Cold War? The short answer is, no it is not. It is an excellent summary and introduction to the complex political, diplomatic, and military activity that produced, perpetuated, and ended the Cold War. It is an invitation to the reader to make a serious study of the Cold War era and discover in detail what a unique period it was in the history of the world.
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