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A New Cold War?

27 Mar

I was recently asked to offer some commentary for this BBC piece on whether or not we’re in a new Cold War. Obviously, such articles can only use a tiny fraction of the submitted information, so I thought I’d place my full responses here. The questions are those posed by the BBC and, of course, all of my thoughts can and should be contested.

1) When would you say Cold War tensions peaked and why?

The period that we call the Cold War had deep roots in the nineteenth century, and more immediate roots in the period from the 1917 Russian Revolution onwards. It emerged after World War Two as the result of misperception, misunderstanding, ideological fixation, economic tension, and – crucially – the decisions of key individuals such as US president Harry Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It’s a handy term that covers the period from the mid-1940s to the late 1990s, encompassing the confrontation between the two major (at the time) ideological systems of liberal capitalism and collectivist communism. It was not the only major feature of the period, but it came to be entangled with other facets of the post-World War Two world such as decolonisation and the emergence of newly independent, formerly colonised, states.

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Spy Scholarship

10 Apr

To help kick off the third annual Edinburgh Spy Week, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on great works of espionage, intelligence, and surveillance scholarship. Below are a half dozen books that I think are essential for the reader interested in the world of intelligence. This is a personal list, and as such focuses on the twentieth century UK, USA, and USSR. So, no Elizabethan skullduggery, Great Game goings on, on anything like that, I’m afraid.
classified
Classified: Secrecy and the State in Modern Britain
, Christopher Moran, 2012

For anyone interested in the history of intersections between the British state, the media, the public, Chris Moran‘s Classified is a must read. The book takes a thematic approach, covering topics like the political memoirs, official histories of intelligence, and the groundbreaking work of Chapman Pincher. All of the themes covered are cleverly combined to offer a dynamic, comprehensive study of the multifaceted nature of secrecy in twentieth-century Britain.

Christopher Moran will be appearing at Spy Week 2016 talking about James Bond in fact and fiction.

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Reading the Cold War

9 Nov

Today – as almost everybody is doubtless aware – is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a momentous event in modern history and one that I still vividly remember from my childhood. In the popular mind, that rush of people though gaps in the wall represented the end of the Cold War. Therefore, I thought I’d do a list of nine pieces of Cold War scholarship that I think represent the best of what’s out there. This is by no means authoritative or complete, it’s simply a selection of works that I admire or find find particularly useful (and are, in many ways, reflective of my own research interests).

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Invisible Peak and Soviet Ice Hockey: Cold War Documentaries

18 May

These videos have been doing the rounds lately, both very interesting in different ways.

Invisible Peak chronicles the Cold War (and after) history of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Mount Tamalpais and the campaign to have it restored to a pre-USAF station state.

Mt. Tamalpais, sentinel peak of the San Francisco Bay Area, is considered sacred by many… native and non-native alike. In 1950, the military bulldozed the highest peak of the mountain to build an Air Force Station tasked with directing jet interceptors and short range Nike nuclear missiles against the potential threat of Russian nuclear bombers. By 1980 the base was obsolete and summarily closed. The military literally walked away from dozens of structures, leaving behind a huge toxic mess on the mountain. Through the use of historical footage, 3D reconstruction, interviews and breathtaking timelapse cinematography, this 20-minute film, narrated and co-written by Peter Coyote, explores the history of Tam’s West Peak and how local citizens have been fighting to restore their mountain to a natural state.

The film is only twenty minutes long and well worth watching as it explores some of the legacies of the Cold War era.

With all the hoopla of the Cannes Film Festival currently ongoing, one of the entrants that I’m very keen to see is the documentary Red Army. It focuses on the mighty Soviet ice hockey teams of the 1970s and 80s and the career of the great Slava Fetisov. Given the significance of ice hockey within the context of the Cold War, it should be fascinating viewing.

 

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