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April: Exams, new resources and two Cold War books

Sunday 25 April 2021


Exam time

Exams are around the corner and so just a reminder that we have a revision section on this site to help students with revision strategies:

If you have not yet set up student access for your classes, this would be a great time to do so as there are lots of pages that students would find useful to help them with revision – not just the revision strategy tips section but also the ATL and video pages, the essay planning and the interactive quiz pages.

The format of this year’s exams are of course different: for a reminder of this please see our blog on this:

What is new on our site?

In addition to adding more quizzes and updating ATL regularly with new activities, we have made a good start with two new sections for the Americas region, Paper 3, and hope to complete these in the next few weeks:

Book reviews

We have come across two new books on the Cold War which sound very interesting and relevant to students studying the Cold War for Paper Two.

Nuclear Folly’ by Serhii Plokhy, published this month, highlights how close the Cuban Missile Crisis came to a nuclear showdown: ‘a story of intelligence failures, misperceptions and miscalculations on both sides that had the potential at almost every step to lead to disaster’. (The Economist)

Refuting the argument that both Kennedy and Khrushchev were wise enough to draw back from the dangers of war he shows, using new evidence, that neither leader was in control of events and war was only avoided due to a lot of luck.

There is also the chance to hear Serhii Plokhy talk about his book in this talk which is coming up Monday 17th May:

LIVESTREAM EVENT | Nuclear Folly - A New History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (How To Academy)

For four weeks in 1962, the world teetered. Drawing on recently declassified KGB files, Serhii Plohky will transport us back to the Cuban missile crisis and the brink of nuclear Armageddon.

Another book on the Cold War - published last year, 'The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War' by Archie Brown is, to quote the Financial Times , 'a masterly survey of the end of the cold war and the roles played in it by Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher'.

Archie argues that it was Gorbachev’s transformation of Soviet foreign policy that ended the Cold War and not US military pressure. However, ‘American politicians lost little time in allocating the credit to themselves.  For Bush, with a presidential election to fight in 1992, this was somewhat understandable, but it fed into a post-Soviet Russian narrative that the break-up of the Soviet Union had been planned and orchestrated from Washington.’

This is a podcast by Brown giving a taster on the key theme of his book:

Archie Brown on the End of the Cold War | Episode 6 | The Side Comment (YouTube)

For this episode of The Side Comment, Archie Brown, author of "The Human Factor", examines how the unexpected triangle formed by Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret ...

In our last blog we mentioned the publication of 'The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution' by Yang Jisheng and the dangers he faced in writing this work. Here is another review by the FT which also highlights his 'breathtaking courage in an era when historians in China are feeling increasing restrictions on their work'.

Another article on the Cultural revolution which students might find interesting is this one from the Guardian newspaper – not a recent one – but an excellent overview (we’ve added this to the relevant pages on the site as well).

The Cultural Revolution: all you need to know about China's political convulsion (the Guardian)

Fifty years ago one of the bloodiest eras in history began, in which as many as two million people died. But who started it and what was it for?

More virtual events

The UK Historical Association now has lectures on line  - for example this one coming up on Napoleon and the extent to which he betrayed the French Revolution:

Questions in History: Did Napoleon betray the French Revolution? (Eventbrite)

During this talk we will take a closer look at Napoleon's ruling of France and explore if he betrayed the principles of the revolution.

And Finally..

History is always in the news and impacting on today's events. And this week was no exception with Joe Biden being the first US President to recognise the Armenian massacre of 1915 as genocide. This will be particularly interesting for students studying the First World War  - and for those going onto study IR at University. Also interesting for IB Historians is the different perspective of Turkey regarding this event, and the way Biden's announcement has been received in Turkey.

Biden says Armenian mass killing was genocide (BBC News)

The statement by the US president drew an immediate rebuke from Turkey, which disputes the term.



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