HIS103Y1 Lecture 22: Origins of the Cold war
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Origins of the Cold war
The origins of the Cold War are contested among historians. The postwar tensions between the
United States and the Soviet Union have been studied under three primary schools of thought:
traditionalist or “orthodox”, “revisionism,” and “post-revisionism.” After 1991 when
communism in the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian archives were declassified and added new
data to the debate. Once these documents were revealed, scholars contextualized the Cold War in
terms of international perspectives beyond the Soviet Union and America. The primary and long-
term cause was a clash of ideologies – capitalism and communism. After the documents were
declassified, it was also evident that espionage and intelligence played a key role in the origins
and the course of the Cold War. Each nation feared the other’s ideologies and was preparing to
fight the other. Both countries gathered information on the enemy’s strategy and technology
using civilian and military agencies.
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