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Earlier histories of the Cold War haven’t exactly been charitable toward the peace activists and pacifists who led peace initiatives. Pacifists in the United...

Earlier histories of the Cold War haven’t exactly been charitable toward the peace activists and pacifists who led peace initiatives. Pacifists in the United States were either simplistic and naïve, or they were fellow travelers of the Soviet Union. Peace proposals coming from the Soviet Union were nothing more than propaganda. Activists in Europe, meanwhile, were treated as a kind of curiosity in the broader Cold War, but their role was to highlight the growing tensions between the superpowers. This left an important question unanswered: what exactly was the significance of this peace activism that emerged after 1945? Did it amount to anything?

Petra Goedde’s The Politics of Peace: A Global Cold War History (Oxford University Press, 2019) fills in the important history of peace movements during the Cold War. Goedde discusses the different movements that existed in the United States and Europe from 1945 until the early 1970s. She looks at different facets of these peace movements. Much of it is centered on opposition to nuclear weapons, but Goedde’s analysis extends into the realm of decolonization, environmentalism, and gender. She concludes by noting some of the long-term impacts of peace activism, including the formation of the Green Party in Germany and the adoption of certain policies by foreign policy realists such as Richard Nixon.


Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.