Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis

Yale professor and Cold War historian extraordinaire John Lewis Gaddis has a new book out this week, The Cold War: A New History. From the reviews I've read, I gather that this is not a groundbreaking work of new scholarship. Rather, it is a one-volume distillation of Gaddis's decades of research, much like Donald Kagan's recent Peloponnesian War. In any event, it promises to be well-balanced history insightfully written.

For a glimpse at Gaddis's premises, William Grimes quotes the book in the New York Times:

The world, I am quite sure, is a better place for that conflict having been fought in the way that it was and won by the side that won it. . . . We have no reason to miss it. But given the alternatives, we have little reason either to regret its having occurred.

No moral equivalence from Gaddis, who in his 1997 book We Now Know revised his earlier analysis and concluded that Stalin bears much of the blame for the Cold War's beginning and indeed made it inevitable. Gaddis is a proponent of viewing the conflict more in terms of ideology and morality -- the so-called "new cold war history" -- and Grimes points out the emphasis the historian places on men like John Paul II. The article doesn't mention it, but Gaddis also views Ronald Reagan's contributions to the end of the Cold War very positively (as well as those of Mikhail Gorbachev).

In short: this book is not to be missed.

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