Un-Tangling the Web of Cold War Studies; or,
How One Historian Stopped Worrying and
Learned to Love the Internet

Robert Griffith

Three years ago, I returned to the classroom following a long sojourn in academic administration. Like other administrators, I had frequently "talked the talk," lecturing (some said hectoring) my faculty colleagues on the importance of new technologies. Now, teaching for the first time in almost a decade, I faced the challenge of "walking the walk." In the process, I began to discover just how rapidly technologies were transforming higher education, including my own area of interest—the history of the United States since 1945. Many of these innovations, such as the proliferation of new databases and increasingly sophisticated search engines and the growing availability of journals online, are affecting all disciplines. Other advances are more particularly relevant to the study of the recent past: for example, the online publication of recently declassified Cold War documents from U.S. and other archives.  What follows, then, is a very preliminary and necessarily incomplete effort to explore some of these changes and the implications they hold for how we study and teach the history of the Cold War.  --Robert Griffith

Editors Note: All off-site links were checked and active as of March 31, 2001.

New Tools for Researchers

When the World Wide Web first emerged, less than ten years ago, its arrival was accompanied by predictions (and on the part of some, fears) that libraries would soon become obsolete. Clearly, that has not occurred, nor is it likely to occur in the near future; however, libraries have been dramatically changed by the advent of new technologies. New databases and increasingly sophisticated search engines have transformed how historians search for even traditional print sources. These databases range from the online catalogue of one's own library or (more frequently) consortia of libraries, to the vast storehouse of records available through the Library of Congress or such organizations as the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and the Research Libraries Group (RLG). ABC-CLIO's large historical databases, previously available on CD, may now be searched online at subscribing institutions. ("Cold War" produced 3,183 hits in America: History and Life and 2,707 hits in Historical Abstracts.) New databases have also revolutionized access to the description and location of primary sources. It is now possible to search the holdings of the National Archives through the rapidly expanding archive Web site, which includes (among many other things), an online version of the Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, as well as a prototype of the Archives’ future online guide, the National Archives Information Locator (NAIL). Historians also may now seek information about manuscript collections by consulting the Library of Congress's online, searchable version of NUCMC, which includes entries to the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections since 1986.  Archives USA published by Chadwyck Healey, includes a searchable database for NUCMC since its inception in 1959 and also provides some 50,000 records from Chadwyck-Healey's microfiche collection of finding aids. A number of organizations, among them the Research Libraries Group and the California Digital Library are exploring ways of improving access to primary materials. For historians of the Cold War, as for scholars generally, such databases bring to the desktop the ability to search enormous bibliographic and archival collections. They also require new skills on the part of scholars and students and new partnerships between faculty members and technologically savvy librarians.

I can only touch on the Web sites (and services) offered by national libraries and archives around the world. Ready, Net, Go! Archival Internet Resources, a Tulane University Web site serving professional archivists, contains an extensive "meta index," or index of archival indexes such as the European Archival Network or UNESCO's Archives in the World. Examples of national archive Web pages include the Bundesarchiv Online (Germany), the �sterreichische Staatsarchiv (Austria), the Archives Nationales of France and Great Britain's venerable Public Record Office. Cold War historians will find information of interest at the NATO archives (see below), and at the Historical Archives of the European Communities in Florence, which holds archival collections dating from the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, through the creation of The European Union (EU) by the Maastricht Treaty. ArcheoBiblioBase: Archives in Russia is an overview (online) of Russian Archives, drawn from the ArcheoBiblioBase information system on archival repositories in the Russian Federation, maintained by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted in collaboration with Rosarkhiv, the Federal Archival Service of Russia.  For the more detailed print edition, see Grimsted, Archives of Russia: A Directory and Bibliographic Guide to Holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Armonk, NY, and London: M.E. Sharpe Publishers, 2000). For background on Soviet archives, see especially Grimsted's report, "Archives in Russia Seven Years After," Research Report 20, on the Cold War International History Project Web site. The Web site of the Open Society Archives, a Soros Foundation project, contains extensive guides to the Archive's holdings on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, including (among many other things) the research files of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. For an introduction to Chinese archival sources, see the Chinese History Research Site at the University of California, San Diego.

Scholarship On-Line

The work of historians and their students is also being transformed by the widespread online availability of scholarly journals. Indeed, H-Diplo, the H-NET discussion list dedicated to the study of diplomatic and international history, lists over fifty journals accessible in whole or part through the Web. Back issues of many journals, including the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review, are available through JSTOR, the large database of scholarly journals to which many libraries now subscribe. 
Diplomatic History
Diplomatic History.
However, because JSTOR (the acronym stands for "journal storage") has a rolling five year cutoff, the JAH and AHR have recently joined forces with the University of Illinois Press and the National Academy Press to establish The History Cooperative, which is making more recent issues available online. Recent (1997-) volumes of Diplomatic History, published by Blackwell Publishers, are available online to institutional subscribers and members of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) via the large Ingenta database. So is Peace & Change, the journal of the Peace History Society.   The Journal of Cold War Studies, the new journal of the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies is available in digital format through Project Muse, a database of 50 journals established by Johns Hopkins University.
Cold War Studies.
World Politics, produced by Princeton University's Center of International Studies, is available through institutional subscriptions to Project Muse, while earlier issues may be accessed via JSTOR. Many other international journals are accessible by subscription through the Taylor & Francis Group, which publishes some 450 electronic journals.  Some journals, like the prestigious Foreign Affairs, put only their table of contents online. Some, such as Foreign Service Journal, the Journal of the American Foreign Service Association, and the Harvard International Review, publish selected full text articles. Foreign Policy, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is on line from Winter, 1997-8 forward.  Orbis, the quarterly journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) is available online to subscribers at Elsevier's Science Direct gateway.  American Diplomacy, a new journal on foreign policy and practice published by retired foreign service officers in cooperation with the Triangle (North Carolina) Institute for Security Studies, are accessible in their entirety. INTERMARIUM  is a new, online journal published by Columbia University's Institute on East Central Europe and the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, focuses on history and politics of Central and Eastern Europe since World War II. Of course articles from even the least Web accessible journal can usually be obtained through one of the major document delivery services such as UnCover, CitaDel, Infotrieve, or First Search.

Primary Sources On-line

In addition to online databases and other bibliographic guides, libraries, government agencies and other public and private organizations are placing more and more of the historical record online. For example, the University of Michigan's outstanding government documents collection University of Michigan Documents Center includes many valuable resources.  Cold War scholars will be especially interested in its extensive collection of documents, indexes and links on U.S. Foreign PolicyThe Yale University Law School has created a rich documentary archive on U.S. foreign relations, the Avalon Project on the Foreign Relations of the United States. Both the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Library of Congress offer online materials on the Cold War. For an overview of documents, together with finding aids and other resources available through the National Archives, for example, see The Cold War Era: Records and Research at the National Archives and Records Administration Many of the presidential libraries, in addition to extensive guides to their own collections, have digitized interesting (if often uneven) materials on the Cold War. Thus, the John F. Kennedy Library maintains a reference site with documents, photos and sound files, including the full text of the 272 National Security Action Memoranda issued by Kennedy from 1961 to 1963; while the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library hosts the Vietnam War Internet Project, a large set of documents, links, bibliographies and other materials relating to the Vietnam War. The Truman Library's online collection includes a detailed set of original documents and other materials on the Berlin Airlift. The recently established Harvard Project on Cold War Studies maintains an online documentary archive and a well annotated page of links to other cold war sites.
Logo from the Office of the State Department Historian.
Office of the Historian of the United States.
The University of Toronto hosts The Stalin Era Research and Archives Project (SERAP), a collaborative, multidisciplinary undertaking based at the University's Centre for Russian and East European Studies, which publishes working papers and other items on its Web site.  The Office of the Historian of the State Department publishes all new volumes (primarily from the Kennedy year forward) in its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series in digital format.  The University of Wisconsin, Madison, has published the first volume in this historic series, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Volume 1, 1861 as part of a pilot program to digitize these and other important government records, as well as the volumes for 1900-1918 (which do not, however, included documents relating to WWI or the Russian Revolution).

Freedom of Information Act Web sites

As a result of the 1996 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, individual agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the State Department have now established "electronic reading rooms" at which frequently requested declassified documents and other materials are posted. Thus, the Department of State FOIA Electronic Reading Room offers access to a wide variety of declassified State Department documents; while it is possible
Cia seal.
CIA seal.
to read FBI surveillance reports on suspected spies as well as famous individuals who caught the attention of the Bureau's Director, J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI FOIA Electronic Reading Room The once super secret National Security Agency has placed on line some 3,000 documents from the "Venona" Project,
FBI Seal
FBI seal.
a top secret program to intercept and decrypt messages from Soviet intelligence agencies during the 1940s. The NSA site also includes a documentary archive on the role of signals intelligence during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The CIA Electronic Reading Room contains selections from declassified documents on, among other things, the Rosenberg Case, the Bay of Pigs and the CIA role in the overthrow of the government of Guatemala in 1954. A list of all federal sites can be found on the Department of Justice's FOIA Web site. Of course, all the usual caveats apply when using materials made available by institutions whose own interests are likely to shape what is and is not made available, especially when those same institutions have been notoriously resistant to opening their archives.

The Declassified Cold War: The Cold War International History
Project and The National Security Archive

The two most important repositories of new Cold War documents are the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) and the The National Security Archive. Established in 1991 with a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation and located within the Woodrow Wilson Center's Division of International Studies, the Cold War International History Project has played an important role in accelerating the release and distribution of previously classified Cold War documents from former "Communist bloc" countries. 
The Cold War International History Project.
Over the past decade, CWIHP has published important new materials on a wide range of major issues, including the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, Soviet nuclear weapons policy, the Sino-Soviet split, the Hungarian revolution of 1956, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the American war in Vietnam. CWIHP has translated and published some of the most important of these documents, together with often incisive scholarly commentaries, in an ongoing series, the Cold War International History Project Bulletin. CWIHP publishes a series of Working Papers by scholars working from the new documentary record, and has recently begun a book series in collaboration with Stanford University Press. CWIHP sponsors an ongoing series of scholarly talks, seminars and conferences on what it calls "the new cold war history." Both the Bulletin and the Working Papers are available on the CWIHP Web site, as are many documents that have not yet been published in hard copy. Still other documents await translation in the Project's large archive. The results of these efforts have been impressive, as reflected in a wide range of books and articles drawing on the new materials. Of course, the CWIHP archive remains limited: in part by the small size of the Project staff and the high cost of translating documents and making them available online, but also because access to many archives remains highly restricted. Indeed, some of the Soviet archives that yielded such rich materials in the mid-1990s, have now again been closed.

The National Security Archive has a mission similar to that of the Cold War International History Project, with which it often collaborates on conferences and other undertakings. The National Security Archive was founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars seeking access to classified government records. 
National Security Archive.
National Security Archive.
Funded by a number of prominent foundations, the National Security Archive has become the single largest non governmental library of declassified documents, many of which have resulted from Freedom of Information Act suits brought against U.S. government agencies by the Archive. Its collections, which include the CWIHP archive, are housed in Gelman Library on the campus of George Washington University. The Archive boasts a computer system that hosts databases containing more than 90,000 records. Its reading room is open to the public. Like CWIHP, the National Security Archive supports research and publication. Indeed, it derives approximately 20% of its budget from publications which include books, documents readers, and a series of large micro form collections published in partnership with Chadwyck-Healey. It has recently joined publisher Chadwyck-Healey in producing a digital edition of 35,000 declassified government documents on topics that include the Berlin Crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Iran-Contra Affair, and U.S. policy in Nicaragua. While CWIHP emphasizes the nations of the former Communist bloc, the National Security Archive focuses more on the United States. The tone at CWIHP is academic and post revisionist, perhaps reflecting the influence of founders such as John Gaddis of Yale University. By contrast, the tone of the National Security Archive is more critical of U.S. policy. Not too much should be made of this last distinction, however; for there is much overlap in the work of the two organizations and scholars and staff seem to move freely between the two.

Among the most important features of the National Security Archive Web site are its "Electronic Briefing Books," brief descriptions of historic events with links to formerly classified and often sensational documents. Thus, a "briefing booklet" on the role of the CIA in the 1954 coup in Guatemala includes two CIA histories of the operation, several CIA generated lists of individuals to be killed following the coup, and a 19 page "how to" manual on political assassination. Recent online materials include Real Audio clips of the deliberations of ExComm during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as selected documents from among the recently declassified CIA files on U.S. policy toward Chile during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. However, relatively few or the Archive's large collection of documents are accessible through the Archive's Web site, which serves mainly to advertise its books and documentary collections. Access to its new digital collection will require libraries or other institutions to subscribe through Chadwyck-Healey.  Moreover, like CWIHP, the National Security Archive faces growing resistance to disclosure by the CIA and other national security agencies, as the glasnost which characterized the early 1990s has given way to older habits of concealment.

Some of the Rest

Thus far, we've touched on only a fraction of the Web-based  resources relevant to the study of the Cold War. Indeed, the scope and variety of resources challenges the energy and intelligence of even the most dedicated researcher. As a consequence, many universities, government agencies, academic centers and institutes, museums, newspapers and broadcast media, foundations and other organizations have come to play an increasingly important role in providing gateways or portals to large bodies of Web-based information. For example, the WWW Virtual Library: International Affairs, maintained by Elizabeth College, is an annotated list of over 2,000 links, most of which address contemporary issues, but many of which may also be of interest to historians of the Cold War. Foreign Affairs Online is an important gateway maintained by the University of Virginia. The International and Comparative Studies Program at Tufts University maintains The World Online site. Columbia International Affairs Online (CIA0) is a comprehensive online source for theory and research in international affairs. Its publications include a wide range of articles, research projects, working papers and conference proceedings and other materials relating to international affairs. Its editorial advisory board includes historians as well as political scientists. Access is via library subscription. It also includes links, schedules of events and other materials of interest to scholars of Cold War history. Mount Holyoke College Professor Vincent Ferraro has created an extraordinarily rich (and searchable) collection of documents, texts and links on U.S. foreign policy.  Professor Nick Sarantakes maintains the US Diplomatic History Resources Index at Texas A&M University at Commerce.

U.S. Government Agencies

Most federal agencies support historical offices, many of which have an increasingly large presence on the Web and many of which are relevant to cold war scholarship. As noted above, The Office of the Historian of the State Department now publishes digital versions of all new volumes in the Foreign Relations series. The NASA History Office contains an unusually rich collection of links to museums, journals and other resources on the history of space exploration, with which the history of the Cold War is closely intertwined. Or, one can download clips from Historical Nuclear Weapons Test Films at a Department of Energy Web site.  To view short clips from films of the 1946 tests near Bikini Atoll, click on Operation Crossroads. The U.S. Army's Center of Military History , the U.S. Navy's Naval Historical Center and the U.S. Air Force History Support Office all serve as portals to rich collections of documents, publications and assorted links on the role of the military in the Cold War era. The U.S. Army War College's US Military History Institute has created digital finding aids for its archival collections, but has also established a Digital Library of documents relating to U.S. military history, including the Cold War. See also, the Redstone Arsenal's extensive Web page on Cold War Studies.  Even the National Park Service gets into the game: the Eisenhower National Historic Site at Gettysburg offers a lesson plan on the Thaw in the Cold War: Eisenhower and Khrushchev at Gettysburg.
"Harry Recon."
The CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence Web site, which includes links to the declassified version of its the journal, Studies In Intelligence and a series of in-house publications. The Center's site includes Assessing the Soviet Threat: The Early Cold War Years, the daily and weekly intelligence summaries provided to President Truman between 1946 and 1950; as well as the recently released CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-1992. The Agency also hosts the CIA Home Page for Kids where, among other things, a pigeon named "Harry Recon" introduces children to the world of aerial reconnaissance. One wonders what the kids would make of the agencies "how to" manuals on terror and assassination.

International Organizations

International organizations have also placed on the Web information of interest to students of the Cold War. For example, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Web site contains, in addition to much information on the alliance's contemporary activities, the text of many of the Alliances basic documents (from Article 51 of the UN Charter and the Vandenberg Resolution to the 1997 protocol admitting Poland), as well as declassified strategic plans for the years 1949-1969.
The NATO Archives.
The site also contains a brief online history of the Alliance, recent issues of the NATO Review (including the issue commemorating the Alliance's 50th anniversary) and an online guide to the NATO Archives.  The Web site of the United Nations contains not only an enormous amount of information about the recent work of the world body, but also materials that may be of interest to cold war scholars. For example: the online U.N. Documentation Center contains resolutions of the Security Council from 1946 to the present, of the General Assembly since 1980, and recent reports of the Secretary General. The UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library includes a variety of search guides for UN publications and databases; the UN Archives holds an extensive guide to the UN's own voluminous archives.

The Media

Magazines, newspapers, television and other media offer information online which, though uneven in quality and usually aimed at a general audience, can be valuable resources, especially for the classroom. For example, The Washington Post has compiled a timeline of Superpower Summits, 1959-1995, with links to the paper's coverage of those summits. Major newspapers have also begun to establish online archives. The New York Times archives articles from 1996 forward. You can search that database for free (the phrase "Cold War" produced 3280 hits), but the Times charges a daunting $2.50 to read and/or download each article. The Washington Post
Image from CNN Cold War site.
CNN's The Cold War.
archive includes articles as far back as 1977, but charges $2.95 per article ($1.50 after six p.m. on weekdays and on weekends). CNN's Cold War Special  Web site, which was designed to accompany the network's 1998 documentary series, offers a variety of interactive text and images on the history of the Cold War. On C-SPAN one can listen to some of the sound recordings from the recently released tapes of Lyndon Johnson's telephone conversations about U.S. policy in Vietnam. One can pause, as I did recently during a classroom discussion of the war, to click on the
President Lyndon Johnson on the telephone
Lyndon Johnson
on the phone
C-SPAN Archive of LBJ White House Tapes and let the class listen to Johnson discuss the problem of Vietnam with Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy and other key advisors. (Click here to listen as LBJ and Senator Richard Russell share misgivings about the war in Vietnam in a conversation recorded on May 27, 1964.) Thus the Discovery Channel no longer hosts the Web site that accompanied its "World in Conflict" series, a site that included documents on the Korean War, the Rosenberg Case, Eisenhower and the Cold War and Star Wars.  Similarly NHK, the Japanese broadcasting company, no longer hosts its "cyber exhibit" on the "Enola Gay and the Atomic Bomb,"  a fascinating site complete with excerpts from the January, 1995 script of the canceled Smithsonian exhibition and the proposed floor plan of the exhibit.

Foundations and other Non- Government Organizations (NGOs). 

Most foundations, associations and other non-profit organizations also maintain Web sites which, though focused mainly on contemporary foreign affairs, often contain historical materials also. For example, on The Brookings Institution's Web site one can find The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project's Atomic Audit, the recently released study on the costs of nuclear weapons since 1940. The National Resources Defense Council maintains a Web site on U.S. nuclear policies. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains an extensive set of Atomic Links on issues surrounding the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons. Or, one may learn more about secrecy and the declassification of cold war documents by visiting the Web site of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy. The Rand Corporation has placed online the full text of many of its studies of U.S. military and foreign policy, as well as a searchable database of report abstracts. The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Web site contains guides and finding aids to the organization's large collections. The Council on Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Policy Association, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, among many others, all maintain Web sites with extensive set of links to resources for the study of international issues.


Museums play an increasingly significant role on the Web. For example, the Bureau of Atomic Tourism (surely a candidate for Yahoo's "strange site of the day") lists more than a dozen museums with exhibits relating to the development and the first atomic bombs, including the Bradbury Science Museum operated by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Strangely absent from the Web site (and largely absent from the museum as well) is any indication that the end result of the Manhattan project was the almost instantaneous death of hundreds of thousands of Japanese. To learn that story, once must visit instead the Hiroshima Peace Site or the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. See also Remembering Nagasaki, a virtual exhibit by San Francisco's science museum, The Exploratorium. The U.S. military also maintains an extensive network of museums, some of which have technically outstanding Web sites. See, for example, the Web site of the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright Paterson Air force base in Dayton, Ohio.  Historians interested in the culture of the cold war, may take a virtual tour of the Diefenbunker: Canada's Cold War Museum. Built in 1959-62 under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, the bunker was designed to house the leaders of Canada's government (though not their families) in the event of nuclear war. No comparable site exists for the Greenbriar, designed to house U.S. leaders, though one can learn more about it by visiting the Web site of the Carnegie Mellon Cold War Science and Technology Program. Several of America's premier museums maintain a curiously low profile in the area of Cold War studies, including the National Air and Space Museum, which in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Enola Gay, displayed in the end only the plane's fuselage, and the National Museum of American History, whose current exhibit on submarine warfare, Fast Attacks & Boomers, is meticulously non controversial. In what is perhaps a sign of our post cold war (and possibly post modern) age, Francis Gary Powers, Jr., the son of the downed U-2 pilot, is leading an effort to establish a Cold War Museum. In fact, at the Museum's new Web site you can even order a T-shirt with the museum's logo or a Strategic Air Command (SAC) poster of a U.S. RB-47 Reconnaissance Aircraft being shot down by a Soviet MIG-17 Interceptor. The National Security Agency Web site offers directions to and a virtual tour of its National Cryptologic Museum, as well as the adjoining "National Vigilance Park" and "Aerial Reconnaissance Memorial."

Professional Communities

Although many accounts of the internet forecast a dystopian future of social isolation in which computers replace human interaction, new information technologies are also strengthening (and extending) the bonds of professional life. Indeed, e-mail, electronic discussion groups and dynamic Web sites are increasing and deepening the quality of communication within the profession. Professional organizations, journals, libraries, institutes and a variety of other organizations and individuals are in the process of organizing a rich and extensive electronic environment for professional discourse. Many of the Web sites noted above are a part of this typically self organizing Web process. Although these efforts are recent and necessarily incomplete, one can already begun to discern the outlines of the future. For example, a visit to the home page of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), the Organization of American Historians, or the American Historical Association, will reveal not only extensive information about the ongoing work of these organizations, but also links to many other resources, not a few of which are useful to historians of the Cold War.
Logo from H-Diplo.
Logo from H-Net list, H-Diplo.
 Some Web sites offer opportunities for threaded discussions. The best known of these is H-Diplo, one of the more than 100 discussion networks maintained by H-Net, Humanities and Social Sciences Online. While some recent talk on H-Diplo has been dominated by tedious and highly ideological exchanges, it has also been the location of a superb recent forum on Fredrik Logevall's new book, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 1999). H-Diplo also maintains an excellent and recently refreshed set of Diplomatic History Links.  The programs of conferences, symposia and colloquia are now routinely published on the Web; and some even include abstracts or the full text of talks and papers.

Academic centers and institutes are conducting more and more of their work on the Web, and in the process helping to weave together new scholarly communities. Consider, for example, the Web sites of the following four projects: The Cold War International History ProjectThe Harvard Project on Cold War Studies, the Cold War Science and Technology Program and The Parallel History Project. The Cold War International History Project, as noted above, has played an important role in disseminating much of the new archival material relating to the study of the U.S.S.R and other communist regimes. It also sponsors an ongoing series of scholarly talks, seminars, and conferences on what it calls "the new cold war history." Its site is fairly straightforward, containing information on upcoming events, publications, and opportunities for fellows and interns. It consists mostly of text, with only a few images and none of the multi-media features common to more sophisticated commercial sites. This reflects a more or less conscious decision on the part of the Project to keep the site accessible, especially to scholars and students outside the United States and Western Europe, whose computers may have limited capacity to access more media rich Web sites. The heart of the site, CWIHP's "Virtual Library," includes a searchable data base which offers multiple views of the various documents, an advanced search engine, and a helpful list of answers to frequently asked questions. The Harvard Project on Cold War Studies hosts The Journal of Cold War Studies, including abstracts, the full text of one recent article (more are promised), and a brief discussion forum on its first issue (which originally appeared on H-Diplo). The newly redesigned and expanded Harvard site lists upcoming events, touts its new book series on the Cold War, and includes a document archive and a brief set of links.  Carnegie Mellon's Cold War Science and Technology Program Web site includes papers, abstracts, syllabi and other materials generated by the program, as well as an extensive bibliography (some of it annotated), an excellent filmography, and a brief set of links. The Parallel History Project, which includes both the National Security Archive and the Cold War International History Project among its partners, focuses on the documentation and study of NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.  Its Web site includes news of the projects activities, reports on the progress of declassification in various European nations, a list of conferences and a small document archive. All of these efforts, of course, represent but the first, tentative steps toward exploiting the power of new technologies for strengthening old forms of intellectual exchange and community and creating new ones.

The Cold War in the Classroom

New technologies are also beginning to change the way we teach. E-mail, the oldest of the "new" technologies, allows faculty and students to communicate more frequently and more intensely.  Web based discussion groups, both asynchronous and real-time, make it possible to extend the classroom community across time and space, creating (among other things) new opportunities for collaborative learning. The amount and variety of materials available on the Web permits faculty to organize classroom content with unprecedented efficiency. Consider, for example, the 24x7 "electronic" reserve reading room. A brief review of a handful of sites illustrates how these changes are beginning to affect the teaching of Cold War history. For example, Professor Robert Brigham of Vassar College has created an excellent Web site to support his senior seminar The Wars of Vietnam, 1945-1975, which includes a brief overview, primary documents and photographs by Seton Hall professor (and Vietnam veteran) E. Kenneth Hoffman. University of Pennsylvania Professor Al Filreis has created a large and eclectic  collection of documents and other materials on the Literature and Culture of the 1950s, one of the relatively few sites to explore the domestic impact of the Cold War. University of Pennsylvania Professor Mark Trachtenberg's Cold War History Web site, designed to supplement to his recent book,  A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945-1963 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, February 1999), also includes an excellent guide to researching the Cold War. Michael Reese of the Department of History at the University of Washington has created an excellent set of curriculum materials on The Cold War and the Red Scare in Washington State. Designed for high school history and social studies classes, the heart of the site is comprised of some 50 documents relating to the 1948 investigation of "un-American" activities by the Canwell Committee (the state's "little HUAC") and to the University of Washington's 1949 decision to fire three allegedly pro-communist professors. Other fairly typical examples of class Web sites include Richard Immerman's History of U.S. Foreign Policy After the First World War (Temple), Lisa Daley's American Foreign Policy in the Cold War (Syracuse) and Patricia Stein Wrightson's government class on Cold War Dynamics (Georgetown). The recent advent of course templates produced by firms such as Blackboard, Inc and WebCt, which make placing materials online much easier, has accelerated the rush of faculty to the Web.  Unfortunately, most of these courses are accessible only to students enrolled in the classes. Thus, institutional and faculty concerns over markets and rights to intellectual property have begun to erode the Web's once radical principle of openness.

For my own classes in recent U.S. history at American University, I have created a "dynamic syllabus" that includes links to lecture outlines, bibliographies, campus resources, and information on the Web (see, for example, History 207: The United States since 1945), used Lotus Notes to set up a series of small discussion groups (see Using Lotus Notes), and assigned group projects that require students to research and create their own Web sites (see The Projects). For details, including the principles underlying the course design, see Notes of a Recovering Administrator, an informal talk I gave to a group of faculty colleagues at American University on February 5, 2,000. I cannot report that the results have always been successful. Some groups bonded well, worked hard and surmounted difficulties with both content and technology.  Others did not. Judging from student evaluations, the experience was positive for most students and spectacular for some. For an example of one of the better student Web projects, click on The Space Race.  See also the evaluation of the project by its student Webmeister, Team Three (Space Race) Evaluation.

Summary and Conclusion

What are we to make of all of this? To be sure, what is available on the Web is but a fraction of what constitutes the body of evidence and scholarship on the Cold War. For Cold War scholars, as for scholars in general, the Web is not likely to replace libraries and archives soon, if ever. Technology is no substitute for mastery of content or commitment to good teaching; nor will it turn uncommitted students into good learners.  Indeed, the Web may encourage poor intellectual habits: the failure to exercise critical judgment in evaluating Web based sources for one; or plagiarism -- all too easy given the point and click character of the Web-- for another. The Web can also be a chaotic and confusing place: at times seemingly ephemeral, as sites wink in and out of existence, sometimes difficult to navigate, and filled with trivia and worse. Many of the sites noted above are heavily freighted with special pleading for some of the major institutional actors in the Cold War; and not a few are suffused with the triumphalism that characterizes our current, post Cold War moment.  Historians and their students will have to work especially hard to sustain the critical approach that such materials require. Moreover, as traditionalists will immediately recognize (and deplore), the boundaries that once separated students from scholars and amateurs from professionals have eroded, as have many of the traditional markers of intellectual quality and integrity. In such an environment, historians will find it increasingly difficult to create and sustain authoritative narratives, as they once at least imagined they could do within the seemingly self-contained world of scholarly publication.   In short, the world will never quite be the same. The challenge for all, including those who study the Cold War, is how to sculpt order, meaning and community from the ceaseless buzz and flow of the Web. Happily, many of the sites noted here not only provide unprecedented access to an extraordinary range of resources, but also help define (and link) an emerging and potentially vibrant community of scholars, students and ordinary citizens.

Robert Griffith
American University

Robert Griffith teaches history at American University. A new edition of his reader, Major Problems in American History since 1945, co-edited with Paula Baker of the University of Pittsburgh, was published in January, 2000. His article, "The Cultural Turn in Cold War Studies," appeared in Reviews in American History (March 2001). He welcomes additions, corrections and other comments, which may be addressed to him at [email protected]. His Web page is http://american.edu/bgriff/rghome/home.htm.

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Un-Tangling the Web of Cold War Studies; or,
How One Historian Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Internet

Copyright © 2000, 2001 by The Journal for MultiMedia History

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