History 118: Global Cold War

Place and time: TuTh 2:00PM – 3:45PM, Oakes Acad 105

Contact your Teaching Assistants: Isaac BlacksinNatalia Koulinka

Required readings:

David Reynolds, One World Divisible: A Global History Since 1945
Online excerpts (below); all PowerPoint slides for this class can be found here

Description and requirements:

This course narrates the history of the Cold War from a multinational perspective. It opens with the crisis of World War II, continues with the opening salvos between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1945, narratively concludes with the collapse of the latter empire in 1991, and explores the challenges of the post-Cold War era.

The class has four tests: two quizzes, a mid-term, and a final examination. The quizzes will be short, multiple choice affairs. The mid-term and final will include essay questions and identifications.

Students will be required to write an eight page term paper on the writings of a significant Cold War era figure. Details on the paper here.

In addition, students will be required to submit four two-page responses to the section questions listed in the syllabus. Please take on one of the questions for week two and the term paper question for week six, plus two others of your choice. They’ll be graded by your teaching assistant as pass/fail. They are due in section during the relevant week.

The response papers should be double spaced, stapled, and include page numbers. References to Reynolds or our readings should be mentioned in parenthetical form; for example: (Reynolds, 232) or if from an online class reading mention the author and year (Churchill, 1946, online). Here’s a Word template for the section response papers.

You must attend section every week. I reserve the right to substantially downgrade or even fail students who miss more than one section.

Unless you are a Disability Resources Center student, please do not record my classes. Please do not quote or summarize excerpts from my lectures on Facebook or Twitter or similar venues. Please do not use electronic devices to take notes in class without my permission.


Your two quizzes will be worth 10 percent of your grade (5 percent each); your mid-term will be worth 20 percent; your final 25 percent; your term paper 25 percent; your section work will be worth the remaining 20 percent of your grade.


Week 1 (March 29 and 31): The transformation of Europe and Japan, 1939 to 1945

Reynolds, Introduction and chapter one
Emperor Hirohito, Statement of Surrender to the Allied forces
Did Japan surrender because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Review of Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan

There are no sections in week 1; sections begin on week 2.

Week 2 (April 5 and 7): Stalin, Truman, and the reconfiguration of empires, 1945 to 1949

Reynolds, chapters one and four
George Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”
Winston Churchill, “Iron Curtain” speech
Joseph Stalin, “A Very Dangerous Act”
Ayn Rand’s testimony before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities

Sections begin.

Discussion questions:
1. What were the objectives of Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin in the early years of the Cold War?
2. Ayn Rand’s testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities put into stark relief the dilemma that the United States faced as the Cold War heated up. What was it?

Week 3 (April 12 and 14): Revolution in China, 1949

Reynolds, chapter two
Mao Zedong urges the CCP to be careful
State Department memo on the Chinese revolution; could the United States have stopped Mao?
The CIA’s epic fail on the Soviet atomic bomb

Section discussion question:
How did the Chinese revolution change the Cold War?

Week 4 (April 19 and 21): Fall of colonialism; limits of empire

Reynolds, chapters three and six

Franz Fanon, “The Wretched of the Earth”
Gamal Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal
Ho Chi Minh, Declaration of Independence speech
Nikita Khruschev, the secret speech against Stalin
Jawaharlal Nehru, speech to the Bandung Political Committee
George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946)
Mao Zedong, Critique of Stalin

Section discussion questions:
1. How did the collapse of colonialism in the 1950s change the Cold War?
2. How did the Cuban and Hungarian crises delimit the power of the United States and Soviet Union?

Quiz #1 (Thursday) Study Reynolds chapters 1, 2, 3 and all online readings through week 3.

Week 5 (April 26 and 28): Planet of teenagers, 1960 to 1970

Reynolds, chapters five and nine
New York Times review of “And God Created Woman”
A Situationist address to all workers (Paris, May 1968)

Section discussion question:
1. How should we understand the global youth revolt of the 1960s? A critical mass of global consumer era hellraisers—or was there more?

Week 6 (May 3 and 5): Planet of teenagers, 1960 to 1970, continued

Readings: Reynolds, chapter eight
Eisaku Sato’s three “non-nuclear principles”
State Department Documents assessing the Mexican student movement before and just after the Tlatelolco Massacre

Mid-term exam (Thursday)

Section discussion question: What book are you taking on for your term paper? Your section paper for this week should function as a short draft of your term paper. It should describe your chosen book, and make a tentative argument about how it fits into the larger framework of the Cold War.

Week 7 (May 10 and 12): The Cold War duopoly – US and USSR from 1970 through 1980

Reynolds, chapters seven and ten
Egon Bahr’s Ostpolitik: “Change through rapproachment” (1963)
The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty of 1974

Section discussion questions:
1. How had the Cold War institutionalized itself by the 1970s?
2. What parts of the world didn’t fit into this framework?

Week 8 (May 17 and 19): The New Realists and “globalization,” 1980 to 1986

Reynolds, chapters eleven through thirteen
Margaret Thatcher: There is no such thing as society
Ayatollah Khomenei on the eve of the Iranian Revolution of 1979

Section discussion questions:
1. What “crisis” did capitalism face during the 1970s and 1980s?
2. What was the “new” Cold War?

Weeks 9  (May 24 and 26): Fall of Communism; Fall of Apartheid, 1986 to 1993

Reynolds, chapters fourteen and fifteen

Section discussion questions:
1. Why, after 40 intractable years, did the Soviet communist empire collapse so quickly?
2. What similarities can we find in the fall of the USSR and the collapse of Apartheid in South Africa?

Week 10 (May 31 and June 2): One superpower, adrift: The United States and the world from 1992 through 2005

Reynolds, chapters sixteen and seventeen

Section discussion questions:
How does your family remember the Cold War? Do those recollections jibe with the narrative we have constructed in this class?

Quiz #2 (Tuesday) study chapters 8, 10, 11, and 13.

Your term paper is due on the last day of lectures, which is June 2.

Final exam: Wednesday, June 8 12:00–3:00 p.m. Please note: I do not give alternate exams unless it is absolutely necessary. Save car accidents, terrorist attacks, dead or near dead family members or pets (especially cats), you must be there; please do not ask me otherwise.

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