Reading History: The Cold War

Paul Dukes analyses a number of books on the conflict.

In the making of the Second Cold War (Verso, 1983), Fred Halliday observes that the originator of the term was the fourteenth-century Spanish writer Don Juan Manuel, analysing the conflict between Christians and Moslems. Almost certainly, the Greeks and Romans had a word for it, too, while the concept is applicable to various later times, for example, to the period leading up to the First World War. Both Geoffrey Barraclough, in From Agadir to Armageddon: Anatomy of a Crisis (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982), and George Kennan, in The Decline of Bismarck's European Order: Franco-Russian Relations, 1875-1890 (Princeton University Press, 1979), have made analogies between the years before 1914 and those of our own time, warning of the manner in which great conflicts are rarely provoked but can all too easily catch even the most skilful statesmen unawares. A.J.P. Taylor has recently suggested that the First World War was unnecessary and accidental (Diary, London Review of Books, August, 1983).

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