KC Johnson

History 75700: America and the Cold War

This course will address U.S. political and diplomatic history during the Cold War period. Beginning with the aftermath of World War II, it will explore such themes as the growth of the presidency; the militarization of U.S. foreign policy; the domestic and international effects of anti-communism; the impact of the Vietnam War on U.S. politcs and standing abroad; the controversies of the 1970s; the historiographical debates over the end oft he Cold War; and the Cold War’s legacy on modern America. We will read a book each week, focused in particular on the ways in which the U.S. involvement in the Cold War spread beyond foreign policy concerns to affect U.S. politics and the nature of the U.S. state. Though the bulk of the course will focus on the period from 1947 through 1989, we will also explore the enduring legacy of the Cold War on contemporary American politics and international relations.

Assigned Books:


January 30: Cold War Origins

Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power

February 6: Cold War at Home

David Johnson, The Lavender Scare

supplementary reading:

  • Robert Griffith, The Politics of Fear, 2nd ed. (UMass Press, 1987)

February 13: Intersection of Foreign & Domestic Policy

Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights

supplementary reading:

  • K.A. Cuordileone, Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War (Routledge, 2012)
  • Thomas Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit 

February 20: No class–transition day

February 27: Cold War Liberalism

Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, Essence of Decision, 2nd edition

supplementary reading:

  • Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War (University of California Press, 1999)

March 6: Rights-Related Liberalism

Julian Zelizer, The Fierce Urgency of Now

supplementary reading:

  • Jon Hale, The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (Columbia University Press, 2016)

March 13: Expansion of the Cold War

Asher Orkaby, Beyond the Arab Cold War

supplementary reading:

  • Michael Oren, Six Days of War, rev. ed. (Presidio, 2017)

March 20: Protest & Backlash

Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest (Harvard University Press, 2005), rev. ed.

supplementary reading:

  • Thomas Grace, Kent State (University of Massachusetts Press, 2016)
  • Thomas Knock, The Rise of a Prairie Statesman (Princeton University Press, 2016)

March 27: Collapse of Confidence

Ken Hughes, Fatal Politics

supplementary reading:

  • Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate (W.W. Norton & Company, 1990)

April 10: The Decline of American Dominance

Judith Stein, Pivotal Decade

supplementary reading:

  • Kevin Kruse, White Flight (Princeton University Press, 2005)
  • Daniel Martinez HoSang, Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California (University of California Press, 2010)

April 17: The Changing Nature of the Cold War

Piero Gleijeses, Visions of Freedom (UNC Press, 2013)

supplementary reading:

  • Joe Renouard. Human Rights in American Foreign Policy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
  • Odd Orne Westad, The Global Cold War (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

April 24: End of the Cold War

James Graham Wilson, The Triumph of Improvisation

May 1: Post-Cold War Foreign Affairs

Steve Coll, Ghost Wars

supplementary reading:

  • Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower

May 8: Post-Cold War Politics

Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan

supplementary reading:

  • David Greenberg, Nixon’s Shadow (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004)
  • James T. Patterson, Restless Giant (Oxford University Press, 2005)

May 15: Review



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