Totalitarian regimes and highly politicized topics remain among the most difficult concepts for students to grapple with on the open web. This trio of Magill’s Choice volumes offers a neutral take on the ideological rift that divided the globe for almost half a century. From the front plate, taken from a children’s civil defense primer that transformed the archetypal alphabet book into a guide for Atomic Bombing Care, The Cold War handily conveys the world-engulfing polarization of the mid-twentieth century political scene.
There is an eighteen page introductory overview of the conflicting global powers, tracing the ideological underpinning of the Soviet system to Marxism, but each subsequent article in the three volumes is arranged chronologically. The work begins with the Yalta conference, which determined the shape of postwar Europe, and ends with the fall of the Soviet Union, with an epilogue detailing the legacies of the global dichotomy.
There seem to be any number of curricular connections. Articles on McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations, including the testimony of then-Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan and his part in Hollywood blacklisting, are fascinating reading, and the pieces on the Cuban Revolution, Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban Missile Crisis are well-balanced. Topics of interest to student researchers include the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Lithuanian independence, the dissolution of the Warsaw pact, the Solidarity movement, and the invasion of Grenada. The articles also examine the creation of NASA through a political lens, and recount the “miracle on ice,” when the U.S. hockey team upset the Soviet team at the 1980 Olympics.
Each signed article highlights the key figures in the events detailed, and each contains a thumbnail summary and statement reflecting the event's significance and concludes with an annotated bibliography and cross-references to related articles.
A cold-war era map indicates the Soviet-influenced “second world” as poised between the developed and developing nations. Cartographic and primary source documents, typically oratory or correspondence, are clearly set off with text boxes. Each of the three volumes features a complete list of content and keyword index, and the third book includes an ample series of additional access mechanisms for getting to the content, including a category index grouping the articles thematically, geographical, personage, and subject indexes. There is also an index to connect to the many iconic photographs contained within the set.
The sequential nature of the work makes it browseable for those interested in the pageant of twentieth-century American history, and even those who lived through the eras of brinkmanship and containment will learn much here. As the Cold War has been integrated in the history curriculum, this resource is particularly recommended for school libraries.