Cold War - Revisionist historians

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  • Cold War Revisionist Historians
    • Revisionists give greater responsibility for the Cold War on the United States.
      • US policy after WWll was neither passive nor benign.
        • It was driven more by economic consideration and national self-interest rather than principles of democracy and self-determination
    • The Americans were determined to contain Soviet communism in Europe for selfish reasons.
      • They wanted capitalist nations in Europe who are open to trade deals and American export
        • Policies such as lend-lease, post-war loans and the Marshall Plan all worked towards this objective
    • Revisionists such as Gar Alperovitz point to America's "atomic diplomacy" in 1945 as Truman flexing America's diplomatic muscle when negotiating with Stalin.
      • He thought Truman using nuclear weapons against Japan was not for military reasons.
      • The Soviet Union felt threatened by America's policies and diplomatic approaches of the mid to lat 1940s.
        • This contributed to the collapse of their alliance and lost the opportunity of post-war conciliation
    • The first significant Revisionist work was William Appleman Williams 'The Tragedy of American Diplomacy' 1959
      • He concluded that since the 1890s, the overriding function of US foreign policy has been to secure foreign markets for American goods and services
        • He called this an 'open door policy' it seeks to open up nations to American capitalists by removing tariffs and other trade barriers
          • He shattered two popular illusions, first that the US was an isolationist, anti-imperialist neutral power. And second that US foreign policy during the cold war was reactive, peace-seeking and not agenda-driven
    • These perspectives gained traction and popularity in the United states during the 1960s
      • This was a period when failures of the Vietnam led to many to question American foreign policy
        • Other Revisionists include Denna Fleming, Christopher Lasch, Walter LaFeber and Lloyd Gardner
          • These historians were referred to the 'new left' in the 1960s and 70s


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