Seminar in United States History

US and the End of the Cold War

In this course we will examine several key questions:  What was the Cold War?  When, how, and why did it end?  Who, if anyone, was responsible for its conclusion?  How should we assess the roles of Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and George H. W. Bush?   Did Reagan’s military buildup win the Cold War?  Did SDI win the Cold War?   Why did Gorbachev make so many concessions?   Alternatively, was the end of the Cold War the result of exogenous developments like globalization, technological change, the communications revolution, the dynamics of free market forces, the human rights revolution, etc.?  

In our weekly meetings, much emphasis will be placed on discussion and on the vetting of one another's seminar papers.

We will look at some of the essays, articles, chapters, and books of leading scholars on the Cold War.  We will also read parts of the memoirs of key policymakers, such as Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and George H. W. Bush.   We will examine key primary source documents that appear on a variety of websites, including those of the National Security Archive, the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and Ronald Reagan files. 

The focus of the course will be on the preparation of a major research paper based on primary sources.  Students will be expected to examine official government documents that now appear on a variety of websites, including the ones mentioned above.  Students will also be asked to examine  congressional hearings, memoirs, and contemporary newspapers.  Students will need to integrate these findings with insights gleaned from the writings of journalists and scholars.  Early in the semester students will submit a research proposal, a working bibliography, and an outline.  Later in the semester students will discuss drafts of their paper with the entire seminar.  They will then have a chance to revise their drafts and submit a final essay of about 25-30 pages, plus notes and bibliography.  Papers will be graded on the basis of content, research, style, organization, analysis, and clarity.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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