JOHN LEWIS GADDIS is professor of history at Ohio University. He studied with Robert A. Divine at the University of Texas and is the author of The United States and the Origins of the Cold War (1972), Russia, the Soviet Union and the United States (1978), and Strategies of Containment (1982). He is currently working on a biography of George F. Kennan.
It is no secret that there was once a certain amount of disagreement among American historians about the origins of the Cold War. A decade ago this subject was capable of eliciting torrents of impassioned prose, of inducing normally placid professors to behave like gladiators at scholarly meetings, of provoking calls for the suppression of unpopular points of view, threats of lawsuits, and, most shocking of all, the checking of footnotes. Today, in contrast, the field is very much quieter, its occupants are much more polite to one another, and talk of consensus is heard throughout the land. It may be that we are all getting older and have not the stomach for combat any longer. But I prefer to think that what is happening is the emergence of a genuine synthesis of previously antagonistic viewpoints, based upon an impressive amount of new research.