MA Option taught by David Brydan

The Cold War was more than just a conflict between the superpowers. Much of the history written on the period has focussed on the foreign policy of the United States and the USSR, and on the ‘great men’ – the Kennans, Khrushchevs, and Kissingers – who shaped it.  Military strategy and foreign policy certainly form an important part of the story, but the Cold War was also a thread which ran through post-war global history, shaping the domestic policy of states and the everyday lives of people around the world. This course brings together the latest research into the period to help us to rethink the Cold War – how it developed, who it affected, what it meant for different countries and their citizens, how individuals and governments sought to exploit or oppose it, why it ended, and how it continues to shape the modern world. It also examines the conflict from a global perspective, exploring its impact on people and societies in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia often underrepresented in traditional bipolar histories of the period. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources and new scholarship, students will explore the role of ideology and political ideas in both East and West, the links between the Cold War and parallel histories of decolonisation, international development and European integration, and the way the conflict shaped understandings of welfare, science and the environment.


  1. Introduction: Global Cold Wars
  2. Origins: Exploring Cold War Historiography
  3. Cold War, Hot War: Armed Conflict and the Nuclear Threat
  4. In the Shadow of the Bomb: The Atomic World, Cultural Conflict and the ‘Imaginary’ Cold War
  5. Everyday Life in the Cold War: Consumption, Kitchens and Welfare
  6. Crossing Borders, Parting Curtains: Global Mobility and Exchange in the Cold War
  7. The Cold War, the ‘Third World’ and the Battle of Development
  8. Beyond Bi-Polarity: Decolonization and the Non-Aligned Movement
  9. Tearing Down the Wall: How the Cold War Ended
  10. Legacies of the Cold War

Preliminary reading

  • Cambridge History of the Cold War (3 volumes – available as ebooks through Birkbeck library)
  • The Oxford Companion to the Cold War
  • Carole Fink, Cold War: An International History (Boston, Mass.: Credo, 2015)
  • John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking the Cold War (1997)
  • John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War (London: Penguin, 2005)
  • Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Westad (eds.), The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
  • John Harper, The Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • Jonathan Haslam, Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall (2011)
  • Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
  • Joseph Smith, The Cold War, 1945-1991, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998)
  • Martin Walker, The Cold War: A History (New York: Henry Holt, 1995)
  • Odd Arne Wested, Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory(London: Frank Cass, 2000)
  • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)