The Cold War – An Illustrated History

The Cold War – An Illustrated History

By Andrew Heritage

Haynes Publishing – £20.00

Living in Berlin as I do, it’s hard trying to totally relinquish the elongated spectre of the Cold War. For even though the Wall came down almost twenty-two years ago, people in the city still speak in terms of East and West. And they continue to do so with all the concrete confidence that I naturally know what they’re talking about, which some of the time I do, but more often than not, I don’t.

That the world-renowned Checkpoint Charlie is now a safe haven for bemused tourists substantiates its juxtaposition as an unforeseen, double-cross purpose of a bygone era. On the one hand, it underlines the geographical trajectory of the Cold War while on the other, it highlights the (not so) long ago disintegration of said volatile epoch, which, as each day passes, is thankfully placed further and further behind us.

Moreover, for the curious generation who didn’t live under constant threat of nigh instant nuclear annihilation – as a result of the world really and truly being divided into East and West – this new book by Andrew Heritage (whose previous books include The Landscapes of France and The Secrets of Codes) condenses the entire period into one, succinct volume.

To be sure, The Cold War – An Illustrated History, does exactly what it says on the cover: it depicts an altogether inflammatory period of history via the camera lens, contemporary art and propaganda posters. In so doing, the reader gets something of a feel for the Cold War, without having to delve into countless books. The key words here being, one gets a feel for the Cold War, for as much as these 205 pages quintessentially evoke something of a reportage persuasion (which ought not be surprising given that its author was editor of The Times historical atlas range for many years), one will no doubt glean far more considered depth from an array of academic volumes. That said, it’s all here: from ‘The Dawn of the Nuclear Age’ to the ‘Berlin Airlift and Partition,’ from ‘China and the Korean War,’ to ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis,’ from ‘The Asian Domino Effect: Vietnam and Cambodia,’ right through to ‘Aftermath: Oil, Organized Crime and Jihad.’

Replete with easy to read time-spans throughout – which start in 1900 by way of ‘Prelude to the Cold War’ and end in 2010 by way of the ‘Aftermath’ (which makes you think) – it’s the photographs which fundamentally account for this book being what it is: a very worthy and intrinsic reference to a war that thankfully and luckily, never was.

David Marx


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