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Book Reviews
The Cold War: the essential readings by Klaus Larres and Ann Lane. Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
ISBN hardback 0631207058, paperback 0631207066. List price: Hardback: £55, $64.99, paperback £15.99, $29.95.
Reviewed by Wendy Toon, University of Keele

Cold War


Posted 13 February 2003

This collection of articles brings together some of the most prominent commentaries on the Cold War.  The editors draw on the wealth of research on this subject to select contributions covering the origins, evolution and termination of the Cold War from 1945 to 1991.  They include the interpretation of some the most influential historians in our understanding of the Cold War, for example, John Lewis Gaddis, Melvyn P. Leffler and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.  Their stated objective is to ‘identify the principal strands and to discuss some of the more recent developments in the literature’ (p. 2) to this end they seem largely successful within the confines of a single volume. 

The book opens with a well-written, well-researched, historiography-based introduction that outlines the current and historical scholarly debates and issues in Cold War studies.  Lane acknowledges the controversy and disagreement on nearly all issues, particularly the debate regarding the Cold War’s origins.  The text is then broken into four parts.  The first part is concerned with “Cold War Origins” and considers the sources of the perceptions and misperceptions of the United States and the former Soviet Union.  The second part considers British and American reactions to crises centred on the German question.  The third part reflects on the Vietnam War, relations with China and the failure of détente in the 1970s.  The final part concerns the lessons that should be learnt from “The End of the Cold War.”  Each part is prefaced with a concise introduction that sets the chapters in their historiographical and historical context and outlines the main arguments of the articles that will follow. 

This examination of the Cold War also includes a discussion of methodology and the use of various models to attempt to effectively understand the increasingly precarious situation in which the world found itself.  Although the historiographical introduction points to additional sources, a thorough “further reading” section providing a guide to this vast area of scholarship would have been immensely helpful.  The index, however, is comprehensive and should prove most useful.  The publisher’s billing states ‘this combination of articles and editorial material provides students with easy access to seminal work and an analytical framework with which to approach their studies.’  In essence, this collection is a useful introduction to the Cold War for students and teachers alike.  Well worth addition to a reading list or even an interested student’s collection.  You will find it difficult to find articles of such importance brought together so thoughtfully elsewhere. 

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