The Impossible Peace: Britain, the Division of Germany and the Origins of the Cold War

By Anne Deighton | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

ON 8 May 1945 the Germans surrendered unconditionally to the Allies and the war in Europe was over. But by the end of 1947 the Allies were engaged in the elusive and intractable conflict that we know as the cold war, a conflict that has dominated contemporary international relations as well as the historiography of the postwar years.

Scholars have long argued over the origins and nature of the cold war. During the 1950s and the early 1960s Western opinion was dominated by the so-called traditionalist view of the cold war, expounded, in many cases, by those who had been active in government during these years. They have left us a prodigious outpouring of memoirs, diaries, and 'inside' accounts of the international politics of the 1940s and early 1950s. According to these traditionalist writers, the Soviet Union's desire to expand her power and influence outside her borders was checked only by the defensive, protective policy of the United States. The cold war was in essence an American response to a Soviet challenge that was posed within an acutely bipolar world setting. 1

Then, during the Vietnam war and the crisis of American selfconfidence that followed, scholars took a fresh look at the 1940s. A new school of thought emerged, a revisionist school, whose members were mostly left-wing or marxist in their orientation

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1
The writings of contemporary foreign policy-makers form the core of early writing on the cold war. See e.g.: Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department ( New York: Norton, 1969); Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions, 1945 ( London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1955); Harry S. Truman, Years of Trial and Hope, 1946-1953( London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1956); George F. Kennan , Memoirs( London: Hutchinson, 1968); Walter Bedell Smith, Moscow Mission, 1946-1949 ( London: Heinemann, 1950); Charles Bohlen, Witness to History, 1929-1969 ( London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973); James F. Byrnes, Speaking Frankly ( London: Heinemann, 1947); James F. Byrnes, All in One Lifetime ( New York: Harper, 1958); Lucius D. Clay, Decision in Germany ( London: Heinemann, 1950); The Papers of Lucius D. Clay, ed. Jean Edward Smith ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974); Joseph M. Jones, The Fifteen Weeks ( New York: Harcourt, 1955); Robert Murphy, Diplomat Among Warriors ( London: Collins, 1964). Traditionalist works include: Herbert Feis, From Trust to Terror ( New York: Norton, 1970); J. W. Spanier, American Foreign Policy since the Second World War ( New York: Holt Rhinehart and Wilson, 1980); Arthur Schlesinger Jnr., "The Origins of the Cold War", Foreign Affairs, 464 ( Oct. 1967).

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