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The Cold War as a historical period: an interpretive essay*

  • Prasenjit Duara (a1)

As a historical period, the Cold War may be seen as a rivalry between two nuclear superpowers that threatened global destruction. The rivalry took place within a common frame of reference, in which a new historical relationship between imperialism and nationalism worked in remarkably parallel ways across the superpower divide. The new imperial–national relationship between superpowers and the client states also accommodated developments such as decolonization, multiculturalism, and new ideologies, thus producing a hegemonic configuration characterizing the period. The models of development, structures of clientage, unprecedented militarization of societies, designs of imperial enlightenment, and even many gender and racial/cultural relationships followed similar tracks within, and often between, the two camps. Finally, counter-hegemonic forces emerged in regions of the non-Western world, namely China and some Islamic societies. Did this portend the beginning of the end of a long period of Western hegemony?

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Thomas Bender , ed. Rethinking American history in a global age, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2002, pp. 25–46

Prasenjit Duara , Rescuing history from the nation: questioning narratives of modern China, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Kieran Williams , The Prague Spring and its aftermath: Czechoslovak politics, 1968–1970, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, esp. pp. 3–28

Rogers Brubaker , Nationalism reframed: nationhood and the national question in the new Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 18–24

Anthony Reid , Imperial alchemy: nationalism and political identity in Southeast Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Mark Berger , The battle for Asia: from decolonization to globalization, London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 225–9

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Journal of Global History
  • ISSN: 1740-0228
  • EISSN: 1740-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-global-history
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