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The Cold War lasted for almost fifty years and ended nearly twenty years ago. A vast historiography continues to grow. In explaining the past and continuing debate, this article is necessarily selective. It has three aims. The first is to locate the main phases and trends in the debate about the Cold War. The second is to analyse the growing literature on the end of the Cold War. Thirdly, it attempts to identify a number of major themes by looking beyond geopolitical issues to various aspects of the cultural Cold War, to espionage and intelligence, and to the economic dimension. The review has three main conclusions. First, diplomacy and strategic issues have been extensively explored, though more is needed on the Soviet Union and especially on China. Secondly, analysis of the economic and intelligence dimension has improved, though, again, knowledge of the Soviet Union and China remains thin. Lastly, the growing coverage of cultural issues has deepened our understanding but needs to be integrated into political and strategic narratives.

Corresponding author
School of History, University of Liverpool, 9 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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