What We Are Reading Today: A Constructed Peace

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Updated 22 June 2020

What We Are Reading Today: A Constructed Peace

People still think of the Cold War as a simple two-sided conflict, a kind of gigantic arm wrestle on a global scale, writes Marc Trachtenberg, “but this view fails to grasp the essence of what was really going on.”

America and Russia were both willing to live with the status quo in Europe. What then could have generated the kind of conflict that might have led to a nuclear holocaust?

This is the great puzzle of the Cold War, and in this book, the product of nearly 20 years of work, Trachtenberg tries to solve it.

The answer, he says, has to do with the German question, especially with the German nuclear question.

These issues lay at the heart of the Cold War, and a relatively stable peace took shape only when they were resolved.

The book develops this argument by telling a story — a complex story involving many issues of detail, but focusing always on the central question of how a stable international system came into being during the Cold War period.

A Constructed Peace will be of interest not just to students of the Cold War, but to people concerned with the problem of war and peace.


What We Are Reading Today: Down from Olympus

Updated 06 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Down from Olympus

Since the publication of Eliza May Butler’s Tyranny of Greece over Germany in 1935, the obsession of the German educated elite with the ancient Greeks has become an accepted, if severely underanalyzed, cliché. In Down from Olympus, Suzanne Marchand attempts to come to grips with German Graecophilia, not as a private passion but as an institutionally generated and preserved cultural trope. 

The book argues that 19th-century philhellenes inherited both an elitist, normative aesthetics and an ascetic, scholarly ethos from their Romantic predecessors; German “neohumanists” promised to reconcile these intellectual commitments, and by so doing, to revitalize education and the arts. 

Focusing on the history of classical archaeology, Marchand shows how the injunction to imitate Greek art was made the basis for new, state-funded cultural institutions. 

Tracing interactions between scholars and policymakers that made possible grand-scale cultural feats like the acquisition of the Pergamum Altar.