The best books on Cold War history published recently

Why am I passionate about this?

During the later Cold War, I grew up in neutral and peaceful Switzerland. My German mother’s family lived apart in divided Germany. I knew as a child that I would become a historian because I wanted to find out what had happened to my mother’s home and why there was a Cold War in the first place. My father’s service as a Swiss Red Cross delegate in Korea after 1953 raised my interest in East Asia. After learning Russian and Chinese, I wrote my first book on The Sino-Soviet Split. When I was finishing the book, I resolved to reinvent myself as a global historian, which is why I wrote my second book as a reinterpretation of the global Cold War as a series of parallel regional Cold Wars in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.


I wrote...

Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe

By Lorenz M. Lüthi,

Book cover of Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe

What is my book about?

What was the Cold War that shook world politics for the second half of the twentieth century? Standard narratives focus on Soviet-American rivalry as if the superpowers were the exclusive driving forces of the international system. I offer a different account, restoring agency to regional powers in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe and thereby revealing how regional and national developments shaped the course of the global Cold War.

Despite their elevated position in 1945, the United States, Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom quickly realized that their political, economic, and military power had surprisingly tight limits given the challenges of decolonization, Asian-African internationalism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, Arab–Israeli antagonism, and European economic developments. As a series of Cold Wars ebbed and flowed, the three world regions underwent structural changes that weakened or even severed their links to the global ideological clash, leaving the superpower Cold War as the only major conflict that remained by the 1980s.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did I love this book?

Migration in the Time of Revolution pushes the international history of the 20th century into a new and exciting direction. Using the Chinese diaspora in Indonesia as a lens, Taomo Zhou elevates citizens to agents in international relations. On the basis of Chinese archival research and oral history, she explores how Indonesians of Chinese descent lastingly influenced the diplomatic relations between their home country and divided China during the Cold War.

By Taomo Zhou,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Migration in the Time of Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Migration in the Time of Revolution examines how two of the world's most populous countries interacted between 1945 and 1967, when the concept of citizenship was contested, political loyalty was in question, identity was fluid, and the boundaries of political mobilization were blurred. Taomo Zhou asks probing questions of this important period in the histories of the People's Republic of China and Indonesia. What was it like to be a youth in search of an ancestral homeland that one had never set foot in, or an economic refugee whose expertise in private business became undesirable in one's new home in…


Book cover of Mao's Third Front: The Militarization of Cold War China

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did I love this book?

Mao's Third Front is one of the first books on life and the economy in the PRC of the Cultural Revolution that marries archival research to memoirs and oral history. Largely unknown outside of China, the Third Front was a strategic relocation program of vital industries and whole cities to the country’s hinterland during the 2nd Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution. It essentially amounted to the largest government investment program in the Mao period. Meyskens’s book manifestly shows how closely the global Cold War and local developments interacted with each other.

By Covell F. Meyskens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mao's Third Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1964, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a momentous policy decision. In response to rising tensions with the United States and Soviet Union, a top-secret massive military industrial complex in the mountains of inland China was built, which the CCP hoped to keep hidden from enemy bombers. Mao named this the Third Front. The Third Front received more government investment than any other developmental initiative of the Mao era, and yet this huge industrial war machine, which saw the mobilization of fifteen million people, was not officially acknowledged for over a decade and a half. Drawing on a rich…


Book cover of Latin America and the Global Cold War

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did I love this book?

An edited collection, Latin America and the Global Cold War actually does what the field of Cold War studies has talked about for decades—decentering the Cold War. Breaking with the long-standing idea that Latin America was merely the backyard of U.S. imperialism, the 14 contributions show how deeply Latin American countries were connected to other parts of the Global South. Bringing together junior and senior scholars from three continents, the volume is a refreshing and a much-needed eye-opener for all historians of international relations.

By Thomas C. Field (editor), Stella Krepp (editor), Vanni Pettinà (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Latin America and the Global Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Latin America and the Global Cold War analyzes more than a dozen of Latin America's forgotten encounters with Africa, Asia, and the Communist world, and by placing the region in meaningful dialogue with the wider Global South, this volume produces the first truly global history of contemporary Latin America. It uncovers a multitude of overlapping and sometimes conflicting iterations of Third Worldist movements in Latin America, and offers insights for better understanding the region's past, as well as its possible futures, challenging us to consider how the Global Cold War continues to inform Latin America's ongoing political struggles.

Contributors: Miguel…


Book cover of A Full-Value Ruble: The Promise of Prosperity in the Postwar Soviet Union

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did I love this book?

A Full-Value Ruble is economic history at its best. Using Soviet archival materials for both the Stalin and Khrushchev periods, Kristy Ironside shows how indispensable money was to an economy that, for ideological reasons, aimed at abolishing it. But a strong ruble (and not just any currency) did not mean that the underlying economy was strong. Using money as a lens, the author provides the reader with a multi-faceted view of Soviet urban and rural daily life in peace, war, and reconstruction.

By Kristy Ironside,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Full-Value Ruble as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new history shows that, despite Marxism's rejection of money, the ruble was critical to the Soviet Union's promise of shared prosperity for its citizens.

In spite of Karl Marx's proclamation that money would become obsolete under Communism, the ruble remained a key feature of Soviet life. In fact, although Western economists typically concluded that money ultimately played a limited role in the Soviet Union, Kristy Ironside argues that money was both more important and more powerful than most histories have recognized. After the Second World War, money was resurrected as an essential tool of Soviet governance. Certainly, its importance…


Book cover of The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did I love this book?

Ned Richardson-Little explores the mostly forgotten history of the human rights discourse in a Communist dictatorship. Believe it or not, East Germany tried to pose as a promoter of human rights in international and domestic affairs. It spent much effort and many resources on constructing an alternative to Western-dominated human rights debates. Even if Communist Germany disappeared in 1989/90, its warped human rights discourse beforehand had exerted a major influence on dissidents and their increasing opposition to the authoritarian police state in which they were living.

By Ned Richardson-Little,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Human Rights Dictatorship as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richardson-Little exposes the forgotten history of human rights in the German Democratic Republic, placing the history of the Cold War, Eastern European dissidents and the revolutions of 1989 in a new light. By demonstrating how even a communist dictatorship could imagine itself to be a champion of human rights, this book challenges popular narratives on the fall of the Berlin Wall and illustrates how notions of human rights evolved in the Cold War as they were re-imagined in East Germany by both dissidents and state officials. Ultimately, the fight for human rights in East Germany was part of a global…


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The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

Book cover of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

John Winn Miller

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Hunt for the Peggy C is best described as Casablanca meets Das Boot. It is about an American smuggler who struggles to rescue a Jewish family on his rusty cargo ship, outraging his mutinous crew of misfits and provoking a hair-raising chase by a brutal Nazi U-boat captain bent on revenge.

During the nerve-wracking 3,000-mile escape, Rogers falls in love with the family’s eldest daughter, Miriam, a sweet medical student with a militant streak. Everything seems hopeless when Jake is badly wounded, and Miriam must prove she’s as tough as her rhetoric to put down a mutiny by some of Jake’s fed-up crew–just as the U-boat closes in for the kill.

The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

What is this book about?

John Winn Miller's THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, a semifinalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition, captures the breathless suspense of early World War II in the North Atlantic. Captain Jake Rogers, experienced in running his tramp steamer through U-boat-infested waters to transport vital supplies and contraband to the highest bidder, takes on his most dangerous cargo yet after witnessing the oppression of Jews in Amsterdam: a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family's warmth and faith, but he can't afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor…


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