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21-Mar-Apr-2006
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A New History

A-TheColdWarFor generations of Americans who grew up in the aftermath of World War II, the Cold War and its constant threat of mutually assured destruction loomed over the nation. Nine presidents and hundreds of millions of Americans came to fear and despise the Soviet Union and its leaders, Stalin and Khrushchev in particular. The Cold War ended in 1989 when the Berlin Wall famously crumbled under the weight of democratic ideals and the tireless efforts of "ordinary people" weary of dictatorial rule. Gaddis offers his expert insight into the events that culminated in the rapid and surprising demise of a monolithic enemy.
Penguin. 333 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 1594200629

Christian Science Monitor 4.5 of 5 Stars
"In luminous detail, Gaddis … traces the history of the conflict that dominated world politics from the end of World War II to the early 1990s. … Indeed, in the book’s narrative sweep, analytical insights, and deft incorporation of the most recent scholarship, Gaddis has written the best one-volume treatment of the East-West struggle." Jonathan Rosenberg

Economist 4 of 5 Stars
"It is partly in deference to a new generation that Mr. Gaddis has decided to write a fresh and admirably concise history of the cold war. … Mr. Gaddis’s mastery of the material, his fluent style, and eye for the telling anecdote make his new work a pleasure."

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[Gaddis] offers a succinct, crisply argued account of the Soviet-American conflict that draws on his previous work and synthesizes the mountain of archival material that began appearing in the 1990s. Energetically written and lucid, it makes an ideal introduction to the subject." William Grimes

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"With this succinct and self-assured book, Gaddis now enjoys the luxury of hovering high above the trees in gleaming sunlight, using the once-secret information and hindsight that a scholar needs to write that history. … Gaddis’s fresh takes on the era’s leaders and episodes will most likely have an enormous influence." Michael Beschloss

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Rather than resort to a compressed chronological ‘mush’—his term—Mr. Gaddis opts for a thematic approach, with some surprises. The result is a readable, authoritative and humane book." Brendan Simms

New York Sun 3 of 5 Stars
"Proceeding thematically, rather than strictly chronologically, Mr. Gaddis misses some opportunities for dramatic storytelling, as when he skips over the day-by-day progress of the Cuban Missile Crisis; some crucial episodes—especially the Vietnam War—remain out of focus." Adam Kirsch

Critical Summary

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.