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The Global Cold War: Third World interventions and the making of our times

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Odd Arne Westad
Cambridge University Press (2006)

The Cold War shaped the world we live in today - its politics, economics and military affairs. This book shows how the globalisation of the Cold War during the last century created the foundations for most of the key conflicts we see today, including the War on Terror. It focuses on how the Third World policies of the two twentieth-century superpowers - the United States and the Soviet Union - gave rise to resentments and resistance that in the end helped topple one and still seriously challenges the other.

Ranging from China to Indonesia, Iran, Ethiopia, Angola, Cuba and Nicaragua, it provides a truly global perspective on the Cold War. And by exploring both the development of interventionist ideologies and the revolutionary movements that confronted interventions, the book links the past to the present in ways that no other major work on the Cold War era has succeeded in doing. 

  • A global history of the origins and course of the Third World revolutions and of the US and Soviet Interventions which shaped them
  • Examines US and Soviet interventions in Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan and Nicaragua
  • Sheds new light on the origins of the ideologies, movements and states which increasingly dominate international affairs today.


'Based on prodigious research, this ambitious and wide-ranging book presents the most important account to date of the Cold War in the Third World. Westad's study represents broad-based, international history at its best. He deftly weaves together the tale of world politics writ large with stories about variegated processes of revolution and social change across the Third World. This should prove an indispensable work for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century.'
Robert McMahon, University of Florida

'The Global Cold War is a powerful account of the way in which the Third World moved to the centre of international politics in the closing decades of the 20th century. Drawing on a stunning multiplicity of archival material, Odd Arne Westad integrates perspectives and disciplines which have, until now, remained separate: US and Soviet ideologies, their politics and the interventions that flowed from both; insurrection, rebellion, revolution and the power of competing models of development, systems of support or subversion (sometimes synonymous) that in part determined their outcome. Westad writes with the combination of clarity, wit and passion that have always characterised his work. This time the canvas is large enough to do full justice to his scholarship and his humanity.'
Marilyn Young, New York University

'Odd Arne Westad's new book is an extremely important contribution to the historiography of the Cold War. With broad erudition, amazing geographical range, and inventive research in archives around the globe, Westad tells the tragic story of the United States and Soviet Union's involvement in what became called the 'Third World'. The newly emerging states of the 'South' - of Africa, Asia and Latin America - barely emerged from their humiliating subservience to European colonisation before being dragged by Cold War rivalries into ideologically-inspired upheavals that ended up bankrupting their countries and devastating their peoples. Westad's study enables his readers to integrate the Third World into the history of the Cold War and confronts them with the meaning of intervention in the past for the international system today.'
Norman Naimark, Stanford University   

'In a reinterpretation of the Cold War that is as thorough as it is important, Westad places Soviet and American interventions in the Third World at the center of their struggle. Driven by ideology and the need to affirm the rightness of their principles, both superpowers felt compelled to contest with the other in areas of little intrinsic importance. The results were almost uniformly failures, and in the process brought much sorrow and destruction to the Third World. The picture is not a pretty one, but Westad shows that studying it reveals much about the Cold War, and about the current world scene.' 
Robert Jervis, Columbia University

Press cuttings

Chronicle of Higher Education
3 historians win 2006 Bancroft Prize (14 Mar 06)
Columbia University announced today that three historians would be awarded the Bancroft Prize for 2006. The prize, among the most prestigious in the field of history, will be presented to Odd Arne Westad, LSE, for his work The Global Cold War: Third World interventions and the making of our times.