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The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction Ill Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192801784
ISBN-10: 0192801783
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Small but impressive Soldier Magazine

About the Author


Robert J. McMahon is Professor of History at the University of Florida, and President of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations. Among his many acclaimed books are The Cold War on the Periphery: the United States, India, and Pakistan (1994), and The Limits of Empire: the US and Southeast Asia since World War II (1999). He has held visiting professorships in Britain and Ireland as well as in Asia and around the US. He received the Bernath article prize from SHAFR in 1989 and the Bernath lectureship in 1991.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Ill edition (July 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192801783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192801784
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
McMahon presents this survey of the Cold War with authority, insight, and balance. He takes us from the events of WWII that set the scene, to the US and Soviet disagreement over the disposition of Germany after the war, to the competing ideologies that led to a global competition, to the detente of the 70's, and to the end of the Cold War. He puts the key events and players in their correct Cold War perspective, and he doesn't shrink from making moral judgements along the way. I came away with a much firmer grasp on this important episode in our history.
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Format: Paperback
Professor McMahon has written a wonderful introduction to the Cold War for Oxford University Press's "Very Short Introduction" series. I read this slim volume right after I finished John Lewis Gaddis's The Cold War: A New History. While I found Gaddis's "New History" to be very disappointing insofar as it focused mostly on politicians and leaders of the US and USSR, I found McMahon's introductory text to be a clear and balanced discussion of the multiple dimensions of the Cold War. In 168 pages McMahon covers all of the main points of the cold war: origins, Korean War, Cuba, Détente, collapse of Detente, 1989/1990, etc. I found his discussion on the origins of the Cold War (Chapters 1 and 2) to be the most valuable part of the book. Throughout, McMahon blends discussions on perspectives of leaders and politicians with discussions on the Cold War in the periphery (Third World); there is even a chapter dedicated to "Cold Wars at Home," which focuses on the domestic repercussions of the Cold War.

At times, however, this book seemed to look at the Cold War exclusively through a United States-tinted lens; that is to say I thought that more attention could be paid to the Soviet Union's perspective. We learn a lot about what Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan thought, but not enough about what their respective Soviet counterparts thought: this is one of the only things that Gaddis's book succeeds at. The other aspect of Gaddis's book that I did not find in McMahon's is a sense of drama: Gaddis did a nice job of grabbing and holding the readers attention. (Then again, Gaddis did have an extra 100 pages to fill.) Nevertheless, I found McMahon's Very Short Introduction to be a much better and more evenhanded introductory survey to the Cold War. This book is also one of the better "Very Short Introductions" that I have encountered.
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Format: Paperback
This is exactly what the title says, the entire Cold War in 168 pages. Oxford University Press has started this "Very Short Introductions" series on many different subjects for those with short attention spans or those teaching undergraduate courses (two categories which aren't necessarily mutually excusive). I decided to read this one to see what there books were like, and to see if this book could be used in one of my future classes. For anybody that has some in depth knowledge of the Cold War, or certain aspects thereof, this book can be very frustrating, since it is a brief overview of events. However, everything is covered, from the origins to the battle for the Third World to Cold War culture to the collapse of the Eastern Block. For someone wanting a short intro to the Cold War outside of a University, this would serve them well, though the book pays much more attention to the US than the Soviet Union. When I cover this subject in future classes I will cover most of the areas covered in this book in lectures, and will assign reading looking at one or two aspects of the Cold War in more detail.
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Format: Paperback
After searching some time for a short history of the Cold War, this little gem virtually fell into my lap. Though it's very, very brief, I cannot mark it down for excluding material because it is simply meant as an introduction. Because my previous experiences of this genre have been mixed: The Wall: The People's Story, The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989 and The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis, I actually approached it with some trepidation. This was particularly the case because it was written by an American.

What I got was very different from what I expected. While Gaddis approaches the subject with heavy handed jingoism, relating standard conventional wisdom, Robert McMahon delivers a very reflective style of analysis which promotes a real understanding of what was going on. I have never believed in a partisan approach to history because it only ever gives one side of the story while making the other side look ridiculous or untenable. Rather than simply saying that the Soviets did something evil and getting bogged down in a moral argument, McMahon actually explains why it happened the way it did and leaves it for the reader to judge for themselves. Without this approach it would be just another book.

He goes into some detail about the levels of political aggression on both sides but with particular reference to the rhetoric delivered by a conga line of US presidents starting with Truman and ending with Reagan. This is what makes the book unique and it is this question of American sense of proportion which takes it to another level.
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