Cold War and McCarthy Era: People and Perspectives

Cold War and McCarthy Era: People and Perspectives

Cold War and McCarthy Era: People and Perspectives

Cold War and McCarthy Era: People and Perspectives


Studies of the Cold War often focus on the political power players who shaped American/Soviet relations. "Cold War and McCarthy Era: People and Perspectives" shifts the spotlight to show how the fear of a Soviet attack and Communist infiltration affected the daily life of everyday Americans.

"Cold War and McCarthy Era" gauges the impact of McCarthyism on a wide range of citizens. Chapters examine Cold War-era popular culture as well as the community-based Civil Defense Societies. Essays, key primary documents, and other reference tools further readers' understanding of how official reactions to Communist threats, both real and perceived, altered every aspect of American society.


According to most popular understandings of wartime, wars usually have clearly defined beginnings and endings. Conventional definitions of war require clearly demarcated combatants, with each side typically able to articulate what it hopes to achieve. Most wars leave physical evidence of the struggle, either in the form of battlefields, widespread destruction, or other kinds of visible effects. Most wars are fought in order to attain or retain control of land or property or political hierarchies. For U.S. citizens, most wars have been fought by those “over there,” where the fighting occurred, or “over here,” on the home front.

The Cold War turned all of these assumptions upside down, and historians continue to debate the meanings and legacies of this complex historical era. When did the Cold War begin? When did it end (or has it ended)? Who were the most important combatants: military leaders, political leaders, or ordinary men, women and children? Where were the most important battlefields? Were they in Europe, China, Vietnam, Korea, U.S. communities, or even within the hearts and minds of individual citizens? What were the objectives of the combatants? Were the United States and the Soviet Union trying to destroy one another or simply to maintain their own spheres of influence?

These questions have resulted in significant and long-running debates over the timeline, interpretation, and consequences of the Cold War era. In this volume of essays, the Cold War is dated from roughly the end of World War II through the early 1960s. Although U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was undoubtedly motivated by Cold War concerns, its role in the shaping of recent U.S. history is so significant that it is best treated in a separate volume. As with the other volumes in this series, this collection of essays focuses on social history. This refers to the study of ordinary men, women, and children, rather than on better known political and military figures; it is often referred to as history from the “ground up” rather than the “top down.” The study of history, also referred to as historiography, traditionally focused on elites and so-called great men (and occasionally women). Beginning in the 1960s, this approach underwent criticism and reconsideration by a new generation of historians that had been shaped by the dramatic social . . .

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