It was such a joyful moment, when the leaders of the capitalist and communist world powers finally shook hands. A very exciting period in world history had come to a positive end. The fall of the wall in 1989 and the disappearance of the communist ‘threat’ from the east are such pleasant moments in our memory that the whole concept of a Cold War actually seems to only be a positive development.
However, media today often suggest that there is a new Cold War going on – and that’s why we need to ask ourselves what really would be the significance of such a new Cold War for international relations in 2017. In the second decade of the 21st century, we have arrived – definitely with the election of the current American president – at the end of a period of transition from the ‘real’ Cold War to a new international situation in the 21st century. Now we can also see to what extent there is a clear demarcation at the end of the Cold War in 1991 and which historical continuities can be defined.
This course starts at the end of the Second World War and runs through ‘1991’ – the year in which the Soviet Union collapses, up to the present. We’ll cover three historical ‘angles’ per period:
The traditionalist angle – that has it that the Cold War commenced because the Soviet Union sought expansion.
The revisionist angle – that has it that the Cold War commenced because the United States was looking for expansion.
The post-revisionist angle (from the seventies and eighties and later) – that has it that the Cold War would have commenced because the United States and the Soviet Union ‘had’ to collide.
A literary and cinematographic component is added whenever possible. Between 1945 and 1991, many books and films were produced that were directly or indirectly influenced by developments during the Cold War. We discuss some of them and look at the extent to which a realistic picture of the developments of the Cold War has been outlined.
Watch this explanation by professor Dionijs de Hoog about nuclear bunkers in Amsterdam during the Cold War (in Dutch – no subtitles I’m afraid).
The Cold War Course:
Lecture 1: 1917-1945 – In this introductory lecture we look at the rise of the nationstates and the development of international relations at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. We end with the immediate origins of the Cold War.
Lecture 2: 1945-1953 – During this lecture we will discuss the end of World War II, the influence of Joseph Stalin on the Cold War and the consequences of the animosity between Russian leader Stalin and Yugoslav leader Tito.
Lecture 3: 1953 – 1962 I – During this lecture we discuss the importance of the death of Stalin, the rise of Khrushchev and the new distance between the Chinese and the Russians. The Bay of Pigs invasion is addressed and we look at the breathtaking incident that almost lead to the breaking out of a Third World War.
Lecture 4: 1953 – 1962 II – During this lecture we will discuss the space race between the Russians and the Americans, the Berlin crisis of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis. The role of Fidel Castro is covered and we discuss why Soviet party leader Nikita Khrushchev has to step down in Russia.
Lecture 5: 1962 – 1979 I – During this lecture, we will examine why France withdraws from NATO, we’ll discuss the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and try and understand the meaning of the ‘Brezhnev-doctrine’.
Lecture 6: 1962 – 1979 II – During this lecture we deal with the most prominent developments in the Third World, the way in which China and the United States reach out to each other and the east-west détente that has a lot to do with the personal relationship between Nixon and Brezhnev .
Lecture 7: 1979 -1985 – During this lecture we concentrate on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margareth Thatcher, the Polish Solidarinosc-movement and developments in the US and the Soviet Union as a result of the Cold War.
Lecture 8: 1985 – 1991 – During this lecture we deal with Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestrojka and Glasnost and the improvement of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union in this period. The wall falls, the Soviet Union ceases to exist and Eastern Europe and the many Soviet republics distance themselves from their old communist masters.
Lecture 9: 1991 – 2017 – During this lecture we look at the transition period after the Cold War. What direct consequences did the end of the Cold War have? Have we all enjoyed the ‘peace dividend’ that president Bill Clinton has promised us?
Lecture 10: This last lecture deals with the differences and similarities between the period of the ‘real’ Cold War and the here and now and we’ll discuss whether a second Cold War really exists today.
This course consists of ten lectures that are given every Friday from 10 AM to 12:15 PM at the ‘In de Waag’-venue on the Nieuwmarkt (walk into the café and find the lecture room up the stairs on your right hand). The course starts on Friday October 6th 2017 and ends on Friday December 15th 2017. On Friday October 27th 2017 there will be no lecture.
A free digital syllabus is available shortly before the start of the course. You can also order a printed version of the syllabus for € 10,95 (including shipping).