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American historians on the Cold War: A historiographical interpretation

Ebere Nwaubani


This article categorizes the American historical scholarship on the Cold War into five, perhaps six, clusters. After discussing these clusters, it argues that in spite of paradigmatic differences, there are also areas of agreement in the literature. For one thing, it is clear that before the end of World War II, and therefore before the Cold War acquired its distinctiveness, the U.S. had a well-articulated vision of the world order it desired in place of the one shattered by World War II: this was essentially an international political economy which conformed with, protected and promoted U.S. prosperity and security. But at the same time, American leaders convinced themselves that the Soviets were a potential threat to this objective. The evidence is clear that this conviction derived from an ingrained American aversion to the Soviet Union which dates back to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. In this context, the Cold War began when it became clear that Moscow would not participate in the multilateral global order envisioned and led by Washington.

Lagos Historical Review Vol. 6, 2006: 1-38