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The Cold War: A New History Hardcover – December 29, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1St Edition edition (December 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594200629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594200625
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,345 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.

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.


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Customer Reviews

I read this book, here in Brazil.
Dalton C. Rocha
As these events fade into history, Gaddis' work does an excellent job placing the Cold War in historical context.
A. Courie
Gaddis gives President Ronald Reagan high marks for his handling of U.S. foreign policy.
Nicholas E. Sarantakes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 117 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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93 of 105 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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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sean Brocklebank on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Good:

- Gaddis' 'Cold War' more than fulfills that basic requirement of all good books: style. The author never dwells on trifles, the book never gets dull, and you are more likely than not to be left wanting more when you finish it.

- More importantly though, the analysis is simply brilliant. Gaddis seems to have made it his purpose in this text to tackle the big 'whys' of the cold war: why the major events played out the way they did, why the major actors did what they did, why it all started, and why it ended.

- Another strong point is the author's encyclopedic knowledge of his sources. Gaddis is able to deploy the 'perfect quote' with unerring skill, and his evident familiarity with recently opened archives gives this book a distinct edge over older works on the same topic.

The Bad:

- The flip side of my second point above is that with so much analysis in a book which is so short to begin with, there is fairly little of the traditional historical narrative in this book. While that is probably a good thing for those who are already familiar with the major events of the conflict, it does detract somewhat from the ability of this book to function as an introduction to the cold war (which is the purpose Gaddis states in the preface).

- Otherwise, my only actual complaint about the book (and really, it's more of a quibble) is that the commendable objectivity which the author uses to describe the opening and middle events of the cold war seems to fade somewhat as we draw near to its close. Descriptions of Reagan, for example, are positively fawning, while those of Thatcher are only somewhat less exuberant.

In Summary:

-This is one of the most gripping works of non-fiction of any kind, and far and away the best single book about the cold war I have yet read. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the history of the 20th century.
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