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Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945-1991 Hardcover – August 1, 1998
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
Beautifully designed and illustrated with hundreds of photographs, this companion volume to the CNN documentary series begins with the roots of the cold war: the military intervention by six nations (including the United States) in the Bolshevik's 1917 Russian Revolution. The book then takes on the cold war proper, from the post-WWII rise of the Iron Curtain to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet government in the early '90s. "For forty-five years," the authors write, "the peoples of the world held their breath," through missile crises, policies of "mutual assured destruction," the Vietnam War, and the uneasy steps toward détente and full peace highlighted by Richard Nixon's meetings with Brezhnev and by Mikhail Gorbachev's meetings with Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Special sections highlight the role of spies in the cold war, as well as the films and literature of the era. This is a copiously detailed account of the major historical force of the latter half of the 20th century that would make an excellent reference book for any household.
Libraries that see heavy demand for tie-in volumes when PBS and BBC historical documentaries hit the air should expect interest in this lavishly illustrated history of the cold war, which accompanies a 24-episode series that CNN will broadcast this fall. The British producers are credited as the book's authors; they acknowledge the aid of "an international panel of distinguished historians." The text incorporates some recent scholarship based on newly available Soviet and U.S. documents; it opens with a description of the U.S.S.R.'s history from 1917 to 1945, then traces the sources and consequences of East-West confrontation from the late 1940s through the fall of the Berlin Wall. The hundreds of photos and other illustrations will bring back vivid memories for those who lived through those decades, but the volume may be most valuable for readers too young to remember armed struggles in Berlin, Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam or catchphrases like Iron Curtain, de tente, and mutually assured destruction. Mary Carroll
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The pictures provided are really good, and provide many pictures of the key players in the game of chess that was played on Earth throughout the decades.
I rather enjoyed the various side bars presented throughout the book, each one touching upon various aspects of the Cold War, such as spies, or even entertainment.
If you have any interest in the Cold War, or are just plain curious as to what made the world what it is now, this is your best place to start. Buy it.
The Cold War is a difficult time period for students of American History to study because there are many foreign names to remember. For every Kissinger, there is a Le Duc Tho. You may remember the North Vietnamese negotiator from the song, but there is no ditty for Malenkov or Kosygin. The photographs in this volume personify many of those names, a type of association that helps this reader keep straight the identities of many statesmen.
I tried reading Martin Walker's book on the Cold War first, because it came recommended by Stephen Armstrong in McGraw-Hill - 5 Steps to a 5: AP US History (2010-11). This book gave descriptions of the Angola Civil War, the Allende reign in Chilé, and the U.S. Marines' invasion of Grenada that far surpassed the flimsy effort of Walker to describe those events. In the end, I felt far more comfortable using this book to learn and remember the events of the Cold War than I did while reading Walker's book.
I am not putting down Walker's book. Once you've learned about the Cold War, his book is one that I heartily recommend for keen insights into the era. This book is a better one to learn about the era before you move on to Walker's book.
The pictures make the reader feel as though he or she were there, in the events of the Cold War. I'll never forget Willy Brandt's visit to the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial after seeing that great two-page photo of him kneeling, contritely, and seemingly oblivious to the crowd of news reporters filming his every move. You can see Khrushchev smiling at the Moscow art exhibit in 1962 and realize that he can't stand it. Brezhnev looks like a creepy old man grabbing Nixon's knee, but I suppose that is what détente is all about. The picture of Reagan and Mikhail Sergeyevich at the fire is probably the best lasting image of the US-USSR relationship before the Cold War concluded. As goofy at it sounds, the photos help the reader remember what the Cold War was about, and there are many more exceptional photos than the ones that I've just described.
The accompanying text in twenty chapters about the Cold War is interesting enough to read, and clear enough to remember. We learn how the Iron Curtain went up (`from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic') and how the Berlin Wall fell down (`Mr. Gorbachev - tear down this wall' - and the Germans did!). We learn about the space gap, the missile gap, and the technology gap as we fill in our own Cold War knowledge gaps. We learn that a Cold War between the superpowers is one where no guns are fired at each other, but there is plenty of death in the far-flung battlefields of Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
The biggest complaint with the book concerns some of the captions that accompany the photographs. In some cases, the caption contained a watered-down summary of the accompanying text rather than a proper description of the photograph. The photo of the Barry Goldwater billboard does not notice the protest underneath his advertisement, or give the location of where the picture was taken. The photo of the depressed Vietnam veteran does not describe Operation Mainline. There are also not enough people identified in the captions of many photographs. This book may have established a precedent for being the first to publish a photo with Lauren Bacall without identifying her. In fact, the caption could have probably identified all of the actors boarding the plane with Bogie. In the picture of Gorbachev and Reagan signing an arms control agreement in 1987, nearly everyone in the front row were Reagan or Russian officials and spouses who could be identified. Bob Dole, Alan Simpson, and Newt Gingrich also appear to be in the photo. I could cite scores of other examples to underscore the point that the extra effort spent to identify all of the people in a photograph would have been noticed and appreciated.
I gave the book five stars anyway, so why bother? With some minor improvements, the book could have been better. Maybe someone else will eventually tell that story better and I'll have to revise my rating. For now, this book is the best bet at helping students who want to learn the details of the Cold War. Did I mention how great the photos were?