Print ISBN: 978-1-61925-858-7
# of Pages: 574
# of Volumes: 2
Print List Price: $295
e-ISBN: 978-1-61925-859-4
eBook User Price: $295
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Defining Documents in American History: The Cold War (1945-1991)

Editor: Michael Shally-Jensen, PhD
July 2016

Defining Documents in American History series, produced by Salem Press, consists of a collection of essays on important historical documents by a diverse range of writers on a broad range of subjects in American history. This established series offers nineteen titles ranging from Exploration & Colonial America to the present volume, The Cold War (1945 to 1991).

This 2-volume set, Defining Documents in American History: Cold War (1945-1991), offers in-depth analysis of a broad range of historical documents and historic events related to the Cold War era, starting with Potsdam Accords in 1945 at the end of World War II and Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech in 1946. The 1950s and 60s saw the United States struggling to deal with fears related to Communism, starting with the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The McCarthy era “witch hunts” and testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee define the Red Scare in the United States. An era of negotiation that led to détente and a de-escalation of the Cold War began with the brinksmanship of the Able Archer exercises and ended with the opening of the Berlin Wall. This set covers all this and more, with the close study of eighty-six primary source documents to delivers a thorough examination of the Cold War and its effect on the U.S. from 1945 to 1991. The material is organized under four broad categories:

  • Post-War Cold War--an examination of the events following World War II that led to the Cold War
  • Red Scare--from loyalty screenings to the Senate’s censure of Joseph McCarthy
  • Escalation and Détente--the downing of a U2 spy plane to SALT II
  • End Game--starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and ending with Gorbachev’s farewell address

Essay Format
The Cold War is a two-volume set that contains 86 primary source documents—many in their entirety. Each document is supported by a critical essay, written by historians and teachers, that includes a Summary Overview, Defining Moment, Author Biography, Document Analysis, and Essential Themes. Readers will appreciate the diversity of the collected texts, including letters, doctrines, memos, speeches, executive orders, treaties, laws, government reports, and national security orders, among other genres. An important feature of each essay is a close reading of the primary source that develops evidence of broader themes, such as the author’s rhetorical purpose, social or class position, point of view, and other relevant issues. In addition, essays are organized by section themes, listed above, highlighting major issues of the period, many of which extend across eras and continue to shape life as we know it around the world. Each section begins with a brief introduction that defines questions and problems underlying the subjects in the historical documents. Each essay also includes a Bibliography and Additional Reading section for further research.


  • Chronological List arranges all documents by year.
  • Web Resources is an annotated list of websites that offer valuable supplemental resources.
  • Bibliography lists helpful articles and books for further study.

View a Full List of Defining Document Titles