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A new perspective on the Cold War

March 12, 2018

Harvard Kennedy Professor Arne Westad
Harvard Kennedy Professor Arne Westad speaks at UW Kane Hall to a packed crowd on The Cold War: A World History. Feb. 28, 2018 Photo credit: Benjamin Therrien

The Cold War is best seen not merely as a rivalry between two superpowers, but situated within a century long development along two ideological poles, said Harvard Kennedy School Professor Arne Westad to over 240 students, faculty and members of the public gathered at University of Washington’s Kane Hall on Feb. 28. Jackson School Director Resat Kasaba welcomed the audience to the Jackson School’s U.S. in the World Speaker Series evening on The Cold War: A World History, followed by the Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Assistant Professor in American Foreign Policy Daniel Bessner introducing the speaker, award-winning author and Harvard Professor Westad.

Harvard Kennedy Professor Arne Westad

Harvard Professor Arne Westad lectures on the Cold War, calling it an “idealogical conflict over 100 years”, at The Cold War: A World History lecture hosted by the Jackson School of International Studies on February 28, 2018. Photo credit: Benjamin Therrien/UW The Daily

Westad expressed his view that the bases of the Cold War were laid in the 1890s coinciding with the first capitalist economic crisis, just as the major protagonists of the Cold War – Russia and the United States – were developing as transcontinental powers. He reviewed the 100 hundred-year period in four phases, illustrating the spreading influence of the two powers across the globe during each phase, starting with the Bolshevik Revolution for Russia, and United States’ decision to participate in the First World War.

Every subsequent phase dominated by events such as the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Demise of the Bretton Woods system, he noted, tested the two powers, and their response was emulated by others around the globe, widening the ideological chasm. With examples ranging from Latin America, to China, to India, Westad argued that this influence guided ideological journeys across the world, an influence, that is still visible in the way societies organize themselves, run their economies, and choose the regimes governing them.

Read what the UW Daily had to say about the event.

The event was sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and its Center for Global Studies at the University of Washington.

About the U.S. in the World Speaker Series
The U.S. in the World speaker series examines the origins, trajectory, and consequences of U.S. global power and offers insights on these processes from the outside in and the inside out. It brings renowned scholars from a variety of disciplines to the University of Washington to speak to academic and public audiences about their areas of research. Speakers address a variety of topics, including the United States’ global military presence; responses to U.S. hard & soft power overseas; the place of religion in U.S. foreign relations; and the varied engagement of the U.S. with international legal and governance regimes. These lectures will help students and interested audiences appreciate the complexities facing the United States as it proceeds through the twenty-first century.

Watch the full talk on video below:

Read the UW Daily article