The Cold War

History 103U.002

Spring 2014
Day & Time: 
M 12-2P

Each week, this reading seminar will focus on a particular Cold War episode such as the Alger Hiss case, Khrushchev’s “secret speech”, the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the “Cambridge Five” spy ring, Indonesia’s failed Communist coup of 1965, the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, the reign of the Khmers Rouges in Cambodia, and others. We will examine these episodes with an eye toward investigating two things. The first is the different ways that they were interpreted by people experiencing them in real time, usually operating with a deficiency of information that was exacerbated by the dynamics of the Cold War.  This will be done primarily through an examination of press coverage and early journalistic accounts. The second thing we will investigate is the different ways in which historians, working well after the fact and with access to more sources of information, have interpreted these episodes in subsequent years. These investigations should enable us to assess such things as the role assumption plays in people’s understanding of current events, the relative value of different historical sources, and the impact of contemporary politics on people’s views of the past.