The Cold War: A History


"The history of the Cold War has been the history of the world since 1954." So begins this wide-ranging narrative by an award-winning political commentator, which is the first major study of the Cold War. Now that it is over, it is crucial to our future to understand how the Cold War has shaped us and, especially, to recognize it as the economic and political dynamic that determined the structure of today's global economy.

From the origins of the Marshall Plan, which revived Europe after World War II, and the ...

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"The history of the Cold War has been the history of the world since 1954." So begins this wide-ranging narrative by an award-winning political commentator, which is the first major study of the Cold War. Now that it is over, it is crucial to our future to understand how the Cold War has shaped us and, especially, to recognize it as the economic and political dynamic that determined the structure of today's global economy.

From the origins of the Marshall Plan, which revived Europe after World War II, and the strategic decision to rebuild a defeated Japan into a bulwark against China to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, this authoritative work reveals how the West was built into an economic alliance that overpowered the Soviet economy while also unleashing global economic forces that today challenge the traditional nation-state.

The Cold War was more of a global conflict than was either of this century's two major wars; far more than a confrontation between states or even empires, it was, as Martin Walker puts it "a total war between economic and social systems, an industrial test to destruction."

Walker reminds us how easy it is to forget that there were many occasions for the late 1940s on when victory seemed far from assured, and that lent a particular urgency to the efforts of postwar Western leaders. The West continued to be alarmed by the prospect of defeat right up to the Soviet empire's last breath. At the end of the 1940s the fear was generated by communist expansion into Eastern Europe and China; in the 1960s by the prospect of defeat in Vietnam. In the 1970s the failure of détente and the West's economic crisis brought a new generation of dedicated anti-Communists to prominence. For more than forty years, as this detailed analysis makes clear, the outcome of the Cold War was in doubt.

We also come to understand how the arms race caused new alignments and shifts in domestic power. As the United States became the national security state, California, which had a population of five million at the start of the Cold War, grew to thirty million and, by the 1980s provided one in every ten members of Congress and two presidents.

Using newly opened Kremlin archives and his own experiences in the field, the author has written a brilliant analysis of the conflict that has shaped the contemporary world.

The history of the Cold War is the history of the world since 1945. Now that we think it is over, we have to make sense of what the Cold War was, how it shaped us, and the uncertain new world that lies ahead. In remarkably fresh and spritely writing style, journalist Martin Walker explains how the United Statesbecame the "security state."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This intelligent and highly readable history should become a basic text in the new field of Cold War studies. "—American Heritage (Editor's Choice)

"With lively prose and well-chosen anecdotes, Walker deftly traverses a half-century of fascinating material. Enormously successful as a one-volume narrative."—The New York Times Book Review

"This marvelously readable and intellectually engaging survey sees not only the trees and the forest, but the entire landscape as well.... The first major study for the general reader of the Cold War as history."—Ronald Steel

"A compact, provocative, and elegantly wrought history of the formative political event of our era by a world-class journalist-scholar."—Michael Beschloss

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805034547
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/1995
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 538,144
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Walker is the U.S. bureau chief for The Guardian (London), a regular commentator for CNN, and a columnist for newspapers in the United States, Europe, and Moscow. A published novelist and poet, he lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, the novelist Julia Watson, and their two daughters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2005


    An excellent history of the Cold War with fascinating revelations about major confrontations and behind-the-scenes diplomacy. 'Dirt' is exposed on all sides. Prepare yourself for some 'no way's and 'I always suspected that's and 'who would of thunks?'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2002

    A great book for anyone interested in present day history

    The Cold War was a time of nuclear missiles and Communism. The period between 1945 and 1989 was an important part of world history. But even more important is the effects it has had on society. The many reforms and developments through this period of time laid the foundations for the 21st century politics. And although the major events of the Cold War stand out in the minds of people across the globe, there was much more to them than they saw. The Cold War: A History is Martin Walker's diamond in the rough. The book is an explanation of the events of the Cold War, in depth, going through the lives of the men making the key decisions in the arms race and the issues with balance of power. Walker¿s use of hundreds of sources makes this piece precise, informational, and in certain moments, intense and suspenseful. The understanding brought forth by this amazing piece depicting the events of the Cold War, which have shaped the that politics we know now. It takes everything one thought about the Cold War, throws it out, and rings in the truth that the Americans were not always the good and the Soviets always the evil. Walker works to show readers that it was not a certain country that lost in the end, but that the Cold War itself lost. In the words of Walker, the Cold War was a state in which relative peace could be maintained with the knowledge that at any one moment in time that the world could be destroyed several times over. The order of the day was the analysis of the opposing side, tracking every move that they made, and interpreting information as either benign or serious. After 1945, with the Yalta and Potsdam meetings, the Cold War began to see its true form. The nuclear monopoly the US held for much time began to be equaled by a power Soviet force, who began to make their demands for protection of neighboring countries, causing what Churchill called ¿an iron curtain¿ to fall across Eastern Europe. The picture Walker paints for the reader is very clear in the beginning, takes an even more definite shape when he introduces the topics of Containment and the virtual standstill in US-Soviet relations. While Europe began to take on a divide stance, between socialism and conservatism, from the United Kingdom to West Germany, the polarization of the two world superpowers was set in stone. The Soviet aim was to create a deterrent against the US nuclear forces, while the US campaigned against a fast spreading Soviet influence over much of Eastern Europe and Southern Asia. The two ideals continued to battle on a political level, but conflict never escalated to full scale war. This can be easily understandable, as Walker describes the leaders of the powers knowing full well the effects of a nuclear war, and cost in lives it would bring. The Cold War: A History is one of the most informational books on the events and people of the Cold War. This can be attributed to Walker¿s ability to research the topics thoroughly and thoughtfully. Each chapter, fourteen in all, uses on average about fifty outside resources, which provide every tiny detail Walker has worked so hard to included and build a greater understanding of the causes and effects of the Cold War politics and society. Also, throughout the book, he documents the personal feelings of leaders, such as Winston Churchill or President John. F. Kennedy, giving the book an added depth of human interest. These occasional blurbs on the leaders of the world make this read more enjoyable that just reading fact after fact, like one would in a European history textbook. The errors and mistakes in The Cold War: A History are far and few between. Walker makes a strong argument in the beginning, which leads into the body of the text. In the introduction, he talks about many of the ideas that will be presented in the book, and a sort of thesis to what he is writing about. This introduction does a magnificent job at setting the tone for the rest of the book. It acts as a sort of guide to them,

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