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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Overview
I am a big fan of the VSI series, having become familiar with them whilst studying at University. For anyone engaged in academic study of history, you will be all too aware of how useful it is to have a good overview before commencing detailed study. When studying any issue or time period, it is invaluable to possess an understanding of the broad sweep of events before...
Published on 11 Sep 2003 by I. R. Bishop

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult language
Author presents himself as linguistic showoff. He even uses latin without translation. He is showing off his master of flamboyant vocabulary and tries to use as many uncommon words in one sentence as possible.
I had to read it with dictionary. I had to read it slowly too as facts are dense. And this shows a positive side: facts presented in chronologic order,...
Published 10 months ago by B


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Overview, 11 Sep 2003
By 
I. R. Bishop "flamins" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I am a big fan of the VSI series, having become familiar with them whilst studying at University. For anyone engaged in academic study of history, you will be all too aware of how useful it is to have a good overview before commencing detailed study. When studying any issue or time period, it is invaluable to possess an understanding of the broad sweep of events before delving into the details of any one particular event. The Very Short Introductions provide this crucial background information.
I have used many of the VSI series, and the Cold War by McMahon is among the best. The narrative is largely complete, and outlines all of the major Cold War events - certainly in enough detail for any undergraduate paper - providing an interesting veneer of analysis that often raises interesting issues that may have passed you by. The book also features occasional 'boxes' of text that explain headline-making events which are not covered by the broader narrative yet are good to know about, for example the Contra affair is covered this way.
If you are merely interested in acquiring a working understanding of the events of the Cold War, then this is a highly useful book. However, it does not delve into any of the theoretical interpretations of the Cold War, and does very little to explain the shifting strategic paradigms employed by either side. So, although you will be left with a good understanding of the events of the Cold War, further reading is essential if you wish to get to grips with the thinking that motivated shifts from, say, containment to détente, or from New Look asymmetry to Flexible Response symmetry.
In short, the book fulfils its mandate, and serves as an excellent short introduction. I would strongly advise that any student who is new to studying the cold war pick up a copy of this book before he gets started on more detailed studies.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the Cold War., 15 Jun 2005
By 
Ms. H. Sinton "dragondrums" (Ingleby Barwick. U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This is a pocket sized book with a title that implies it offers a brief overview of the Cold War but make no mistake, there is nothing lacking in this little gem. Starting with World War II and the destruction of the old Eurocentric world order, the book progresses to the origins of the Cold War, through developing problems in South East Asia, the rise of the Superpowers and finally ends with the fall of Communism in the former USSR.
There are many illustrations and some useful maps along with a very useful chapter pointing to further reading for anyone wishing to extend their knowledge of the subject. This book contains more than enough information to give a good grounding in the subject, not only for the casual reader but also for the student. It may be a 'very short introduction' but it is an extremely thorough one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but spot on., 27 Dec 2008
By 
John Dynan (Highett, Vic Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
After searching some time for a short history of the Cold War, this little gem virtually fell into my lap. Though it's very, very brief, I cannot mark it down for excluding material because it is simply meant as an introduction. Because my previous experiences of this genre have been mixed: The Wall: The People's Story, The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989 and The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis, I actually approached it with some trepidation. This was particularly the case because it was written by an American.

What I got was very different from what I expected. While Gaddis approaches the subject with heavy handed jingoism, relating standard conventional wisdom, Robert McMahon delivers a very reflective style of analysis which promotes a real understanding of what was going on. I have never believed in a partisan approach to history because it only ever gives one side of the story while making the other side look ridiculous or untenable. Rather than simply saying that the Soviets did something evil and getting bogged down in a moral argument, McMahon actually explains why it happened the way it did and leaves it for the reader to judge for themselves. Without this approach it would be just another book.

He goes into some detail about the levels of political aggression on both sides but with particular reference to the rhetoric delivered by a conga line of US presidents starting with Truman and ending with Reagan. This is what makes the book unique and it is this question of American sense of proportion which takes it to another level. How bad was the threat from the USSR and how much did a level of US paranoia contribute to upping the ante? Gaddis, in contrast, is simply incapable of doing that.

In the end we learn that it was Gorbachev who was making all the concessions, usually against the will of some extremist apparatchiks and not without significant personal risk. It happened so quickly, in fact that the changes even pre-empted US pressure. The subtext of McMahon's thesis is that the traditional view that the US won the Cold War by superiority in technology and philosophy was not actually what happened. It was not the US who won but the entire world and from the point of view someone who lived through it, is a far more accurate and sympathetic analysis of what happened.

This is a great little book, as is the case with so many in this series and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It's not for everyone and if your political persuasions don't run in this direction, you probably won't like it. If you are reasonably open minded, you will end up with a far better understanding than you might from a traditional view many times the length. McMahon has enough material to easily write a book 4 times the size which would be a great source on the period and would probably be a best seller. The sooner he does it, the better because I'll be first in the queue to buy it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A concise and provoking over-view, 21 Feb 2004
By 
Siriam (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The first of this series (Oxford Very Short Introductions) I have read, in its 168 pages in small paperback format (ideal for the pocket!), this is a great read under any criteria. It covers very concisely the 40 year odd conflict giving an excellent overview whatever you prior level of knowledge.
Along the way it offers a lot of very thought provoking observations including - a) the very "high risk" gambles taken by USA up to the Cuban missile crisis given their superiority in nuclear power; b) the real victim of the Cold War was not Europe but the Third World both in deaths suffered and with the US and USSR policy having major impacts on certain countries developments across the decades beyond the well known cases of Vietnam etc; and, c) finally a fresh re-assessment of Nixon's and Kissinger's different style of 1970s international "realpolitik" diplomacy esp. in playing off USSR and China, compared with their predecessors and successors.
If the rest of the "Very Short Introductions" series can match this standard they will have delivered a great academic achievement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult language, 11 Sep 2013
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Author presents himself as linguistic showoff. He even uses latin without translation. He is showing off his master of flamboyant vocabulary and tries to use as many uncommon words in one sentence as possible.
I had to read it with dictionary. I had to read it slowly too as facts are dense. And this shows a positive side: facts presented in chronologic order, objective presentation. Great book for beginners on the topic.
I would have given this book a 5 star review if author have used a clear and simple language.

So - if you speak a like politician with added linguistic showoff you will like this book. If you want to learn the english language in depth you will need a dictionary and time. Overall it is an interesting read, so you will not lose your patience.

One more thing - the font is very small and difficult to read. If you have a weak eyes you will need a kindle.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn the Cold War in an evening!, 13 April 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I'm studying for a history A level and the Cold War is one of my subjects. This book is absolutely wonderful, as not only is it further reading (which obviously everyones doing!) but its so short! It has all the main events of the coldwar, from its origins to its end, and is written in an understandable style. Hell you could even call it an interesting read. If you're studying the Cold War, buy it, its wonderful, and If you're not, then buy it and it will make for an interesting evening read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the subject - cannot praise it too highly., 11 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I bought this originally as a Kindle book - I needed to update a presentation and had only a short time in which to do it. The book is beautifully written and structured - not a word is wasted. It is also scholarly and presents the facts in a balanced and clearly argued manner. I was so impressed, having read the Kindle version, that I ordered the paperback for my office bookshelf. It's a beautifully produced little book that fits easily in the pocket - aesthetically pleasing and well laid out. Congratulations to Oxford University Press and Professor McMahon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not have been clearer, 11 Jun 2012
By 
Xa4 (Brussels Belgium) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I am very enthusiastic about this book. It delivers exactly what its title implies, i.e. a very concise overview of the cold war history, in a masterful fashion.

There is no meaningless disgression and everything goes straight to the point. There is no inconsistency that I can think of and when the author makes a commentary or an assessment, it is a solid one (although I am no historian, there are some topics covered here that I am very familiar with). It succeeds at giving its readers a lasting understanding of the topic through its flawless organization and ordering of topics. And it also succeeds as an introduction: no prior knowledge is assumed from the reader.

Even the "Further Reading" section is praise-worthy, providing tens of useful references, though it certainly is not the ultimate bibliography on the subject (I personally would have added Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner, for a vibrant but dark history of the CIA's role during the war).

Very recommended reading for those who want to quickly learn about this eventful half-century!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 20 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Having scant knowledge of the Cold War flashpoints such as the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was looking for an introduction detailing the conflict.

McMahon does an excellent job in the difficult task of providing a book that discusses the causes, duration and end of a war that spanned almost five decades. The book covers the major events and personalities of the war and reads very well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic overview, 12 Feb 2010
By 
S. Holroyd (Aberdeen, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This is a fantastic little book that is written in easy to understand language and covers all the points and information in a detailed but uncomplicated way. An ideal book for anyone needing to absorb information quickly and easily. Great for students!
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The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Robert J. McMahon (Paperback - 27 Mar 2003)
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