Politics, history and stories about the Cold War


By Tony McConnell, published 31st August 2006

Designing enquiries to make students think about interpretations of the Cold War

Interpretation of the Cold War is a fascinating area. Many students begin to study it certain pre-formed ideas – gleaned from their parents, perhaps, or from films or computer games. Historians have interpreted it in different ways – and those who believe in the ‘twenty-year rule’ that historical judgment is impossible until twenty years after an event can only just start to do so. The ‘traditional’ classification of Cold War historiography (traditional, of course, is a problematic term in this time-frame) is into ‘original,’ ‘revisionist’ and ‘post-revisionist’ historians, although there are many, many problems to do with when, where and for whom the historian was writing. More recent historians have had access to far more documentation than their predecessors, which has also affected their interpretations.

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