HY320GC      Half Unit
The Cold War Endgame (Spring Semester)

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Kristina Spohr, SAR 2.17


This course is available to General Course ‘Spring Semester’ students.

Course content

Based upon a variety of primary sources, this course will explore why and how in the second half of the 1980s the East-West conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union transformed itself so suddenly and peacefully into the collapse of (European) communism, German unification and the end of the USSR and her empire, while China took an entirely different exit from the Cold War era. In doing so, we will ask what was the correlation between "high" and "low politics" in these events and processes? Topics will include: the Chinese crackdown and the eastern European revolutions; German unification: domestic and international aspects; Kohl, Mitterrand and the road to the European Union; the collapse of the Soviet 'empire'; the Baltic independence struggle, Yeltsin and the Moscow coup; Soviet disintegration and Yugoslavia’s implosion; explanations and interpretations of the Cold War endgame. The discussion in each seminar will draw on a combination of primary and secondary material.


Ten 110-minute live seminars, on campus or on Zoom as circumstances dictate, with various weekly activities determined by the teacher and bilateral essay planning supervision. There will be a reading week in the LT.


Formative coursework

Students will be required to submit a practice essay (1,500 words) during the LT.

Indicative reading

A detailed course outline and reading list, subdivided by weekly topics, as well as a document pack will be available at the beginning of the course on Moodle. The following works are recommended as essential reading: K Spohr, Post Wall Post Square (2019); P Zelikow & C Rice, To Build a Better World (2019); S Dockrill, The End of the Cold War Era (2005); O A Westad et al (eds), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, vols 2-3 (2010); M E Sarotte, 1989 (2009); Hal Brands, The Unipolar Moment (2016); A Brown, The Gorbachev Factor (1996); R L Garthoff, The Great Transition (1994); Idem, Détente and confrontation (1985); J Levesque, The Enigma of 1989 (1997); C S Maier, Dissolution (1997); H Adomeit, Imperial Overstretch (1998); R Summy & M E Salla (eds), Why the Cold War Ended (1995). Also students should familiarise themselves with the Cold War International History Project homepage (http://www.wilsoncentre.org) and in particular: Bulletins No 5 'Cold War Crises', No 8-9 'The Cold War in the Third World and the Collapse of Detente in the 1970s', and No 12/13 'The End of the Cold War'.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills