The Cold War

When: 1945 – 1989

Out of WWII came the Cold War in 1945. The Allies – aligned roughly along Western/Eastern geographic delineations – were ideologically at odds and tensions rose quickly. The newly-dominant Americans and Soviets were the primary aggressors during the “conflict”, and the rest of the world was forced to choose sides. Economic and social change took place in the developing world, where colonial rulers were kicked out and new, independent states were established. “Proxy wars” in these smaller states cost millions of lives while rapid social change – from the American civil rights movement to the Chinese Great Leap Forward – swept the entire globe. This period of unprecedented political polarization ended abruptly in 1989 with the beginning of the collapse of the USSR.

Given the incredibly binary nature of the Cold War world – academics, journalists and historians on both sides were often “encouraged” to refrain from expressing “dissenting views” – much of the writing from this period is incredibly biased. Additionally, many events and names in Soviet historical writing were erased completely if they didn’t fit the official narrative. Bearing that in mind, readers may be able to tease out subtleties by reading between the lines of various sources.


  • The Cold War
  • The Revolutions of 1968
  • Decolonization
  • Proxy War
  • Consumerism
  • Second Wave Feminism
  • Civil Rights
  • Economic Austerity

The Cold War World

The world in 1962. Organizations like NATO, the Warsaw Pact and NAM (the Non-Aligned Movement) helped neatly categorize every country into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd world countries – from a Western perspective, at least. (Wikimedia Commons)

Important Names

  • Mikhail Gorbachev (Soviet General Secretary)
  • Harry Truman (US president)
  • Margaret Thatcher (UK PM)
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Indian PM)
  • Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwean PM and president)
  • Ronald Reagan (US president)
  • Benazir Bhutto (Pakistani PM)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (American Civil Rights leader)
  • Fidel Castro (Cuban PM)
  • Ali Khomeini (Iranian Religious Leader)


  • Postmodernism
  • The War on Drugs
  • Neo-liberalism
  • Counterculture
  • Red Scare
  • The Iron Curtain
  • Mutually-Assured Destruction (MAD)
  • Space Race
  • Glasnost & Perestroika

The above themes, name and terms are intended as a guide to kickstart your research. Because ASAP History is generalists’ site – that is, we cover all eras and events (within reason) – it is impossible for us to provide detailed insight on every historically important event or person. With that in mind, below is a collection of articles on significant events. Longer, more in-depth articles are bolded.

Culture & Society

Social change came rapidly during this era. With newfound economic prosperity came a chance to confront historical injustices: the growth of the civil rights movement in the West and “soft” decolonization in the developing world are two examples. As with any other era, the “Cold War” dominated public discourse and permeated many facets of society, including film and literature.

Revolution & Unrest

The emergence of massive superpowers brought tensions between the smaller states and their (official or unofficial) patrons. While many of the Soviet Socialist Republics chafed under Russian dominance, many countries with unpopular American-backed dictators grew increasingly frustrated. The resulting wave of revolutions sometimes brought about societal and political change – but in many cases, they resulted in a tightening of political control.

Violence & Conflict

Pre-war power structures were thrown into disarray after 1945, and many developing nations seized on the opportunity for independence. The dominance of the new powers – America and the USSR – caused frustrations for many within the Eastern and Western Blocs, and proxy wars turned the Cold War “hot” as the superpowers indirectly faced off in the “Third World.”

Science & Technology

With new money came new ambitions. And with great power competition, came great scientific and technological achievements. From the space race to the (absurdly expensive) military arms race, the Cold War saw an explosion of scientific innovation that trickled down to the consumer markets.

Politics & Diplomacy

With a world permanently “at war”, diplomatic channels were strengthened and a huge array of state alliances were formed. New military organizations like NATO and SEATO helped neatly define ones’ political alignment, while economic agreements like ASEAN furthered globalisation and brought the world markets into closer cooperation.

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