What was the Cold War?



Nehring H (2012) What was the Cold War?. English Historical Review, 127 (527), pp. 920-949.

First paragraph: We Now Know is the title of John Gaddis’s much-discussed overview of Cold War history that was published in 1997.Gaddis has a point, although perhaps not in the way that he intended. It is unlikely that many new sources will come to light that will dramatically change the ways in which we approach the Cold War. As Vojtech Mastny, one of the historians with the best insider knowledge of Soviet and Warsaw Pact archives, observed a few years ago: ‘The greatestsurpriseto have come out of the Russian archives is that there was no surprise.’ The debates about the Cold War’s causes, and about which party was most to blame for its origins, duration and decline, now seem like a thing of the past. We can now encounter the Cold War’s material remnants in museums: Justinian Jampol has created a unique cabinet of wonders from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in Los Angeles; and plans are afoot to create a museum of the Cold War in Berlin (that iconic Cold War city) to add to the various public or private sites of memory that have sprung up along the former Berlin Wall. There is even at least one Encyclopaedia of the Cold War, illustrating that there exists - or appears to exist - a canonical knowledge of Cold War matters. The key challenge facing research on the Cold War now, therefore, is of an intellectual nature: the main problem is not the availability of sources but the analytical frameworks that we use to make sense of them.

English Historical Review: Volume 127, Issue 527

FundersUniversity of Sheffield
Publication date31/08/2012
Date accepted by journal04/06/2012
PublisherOxford University Press

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Professor Holger Nehring
Professor Holger Nehring

Chair in Contemporary European History, History