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A People’s History of the Cold War (Hardback)

Stories From East and West

Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War P&S History > By Century > 20th Century

By Colin Turbett
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 100 mono integrated
ISBN: 9781399087520
Published: 6th March 2023



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Between the closing battles of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cold War cast a shadow over the lives of people throughout the world. Whilst open conflict was avoided between the ideologically competing superpowers and their principal allies, millions died in battlegrounds in parts of the world that were usually far from Moscow, Washington and London.

The threat of nuclear annihilation was omnipresent, but at the same time mutually assured destruction tempered conflict and focused minds. Subtle (and not so subtle) attempts to influence popular opinion either way were apparent in everyday life on both sides of the divide. Whilst the power of the dollar and the burgeoning costs of the arms race eventually broke the Soviet economy, the idea that capitalism ‘won’ the the Cold War seems misplaced, especially if one considers events that have happened since, including very recent armed conflict.

The book takes the reader through main events of the period, but focuses on the impact on ordinary citizens East and West and the view of events from their perspective. This is a story of how economies on both sides were built around war preparations and the advance of destructive technologies that had no social benefits apart from the provision of employment. Sources used are unusual in not fitting the western-based narratives that pervade both academic histories and popular accounts.

However, this book is not an apology for the more oppressive aspects of Soviet policy as the USSR struggled to build ‘really existing socialism’ within its own borders and the Eastern Bloc countries under its immediate influence. Instead, it brings a people’s perspective from both sides onto this important period of recent history, whose consequences are very much still with us as we face modern challenges around climate change and growing inequality across our world. A People’s History of the Cold War – Stories from East and West captures the mood of the times with its extensive contemporary illustrations.

As featured in

Military Heritage Magazine

This volume traces conflicts across the world that were between, on the one hand, the Soviet Union, the socialist camp and national liberation movements, and, on the other, the world of capitalism and its colonial possessions.

...The book provides enormous historical, political and economic background to the conflicts while including, as nugets, commentaries from ordinary individual of the 'East' and 'West.'

Mick Costello - Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies

Book review as featured in

Morning Star

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating book from many perspectives on the ‘Cold War’ as it evolved over time during the 20th century. The author I felt has a certain bias towards the USSR but did identify the inevitable and ever-increasing decline of the Eastern bloc due to the damaging economic philosophy of excessive military spending to counter perceived threats from the West.
The book goes into considerable detail of the changing political approaches from both East and West over the timeframe and the inevitable changing consequences they produced.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

This is Colin Turbett's new book that gives us a different angle on the Cold War, focusing on the stories of the people impacted by the events of the period. This is a refreshing change from the political rants, from left and right, that tend to dominate the historiography. Colin helpfully looks at many of the books of the period highlighting just how biased much of the writing was.

... The most original chapters in the book are the people's stories, which are preceded by a look at the propaganda both societies were bombarded with. These give a fascinating insight into how ordinary folk lived and sometimes bridged the Cold War divide... I would recommend this book.

Dave Watson, Interim Director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Great book on the cold war between East and West - two superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States and their allies: the Easter Bloc and the Western Bloc. A reader can find a lot of interesting facts about countries and their people involved in that war, mostly from the Eastern Bloc. The book is a gem for history lovers.

NetGalley, Meg Gajda

About Colin Turbett

Colin Turbett was a career social worker in the West of Scotland for many years, and continues to write and consult in that area. His long-held interest in socialist politics and social history combined when he started to write about the history of the USSR from the aspect of the lives of ordinary citizens. This started with Motorcycles and Motorcycling in the USSR since 1939 in 2019, then, with Pen & Sword, Red Star at War - Victory at All Costs (2020), The Anglo-Soviet Alliance – Comrades and Allies During WW2 (2021), and Soviets in Space – The People of the USSR and the Race to the Moon (2021).

Perfect Partner

Red Star at War Victory at all Costs (Hardback)

Russia’s losses during the Second World War were beyond imagination and touched the lives of an entire population caught between a brutal and murderous invader and a ruthless leadership at home. Soviet victory over the Nazis, which effectively won the war, was the end result of effort and sacrifice by the ordinary millions who were totally committed to saving their ‘motherland’. The humanity of the ordinary Soviet citizen in uniform is often forgotten because of later Cold War narratives propagated East and West for differing ideological reasons. This book seeks to redress these imbalances.…

By Colin Turbett

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