The Cold War in an Hour by Rupert Colley

Published August 26, 2011

The Cold War in an Hour by Rupert Colley

Book info

  • Title The Cold War in an Hour
  • Author Rupert Colley
  • Year 2010
  • Genres Non-Fiction, History

From the end of World War Two to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia and America eyed each other with suspicion and hostility as the world lived in the shadow of the Cold War. As post-war Europe was rebuilt, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin struggled to maintain peace among the former Eastern and Western Allies. Two ideologies, two political systems, two cultures, two superpowers became entrenched in a fight for dominance, each firm in the belief that history would prove them right.


I’ve always had a bit of a problem with history. At school, it was yawnsome, obviously. As an adult, I now want to learn… well, everything. History has become fascinating to me, but I am far behind most other people in terms of general knowledge. When it comes to history and how it affects current events, I am a bit of a dunce.

So, I have been perusing books and sites and looking into how I could learn a bit more. Instantly, I’m confronted with another couple of problems. Firstly, there’s a lot of implied knowledge when it comes to books, and I have to spend a lot of time stopping and starting and looking other things up. Secondly, I am the kind of person that likes to start at the beginning and not miss anything along the way. With a subject as vast as all of history ever, that’s quite difficult.

I was browsing some of the collections on the iBookstore, and stumbled across the History in an Hour books. The concept is very simple. Take one subject of historical interest, and explain it for complete newbies in an hour. An hour is hard to quantify in written terms, but I think it’s roughly about 10,000 words. It took me more than an hour to read it but that’s because I probably had to concentrate a bit harder than most other people would have to.

For those that know the subjects well, it’s probably far too fundamental. There’s not much in the way of analysis, but facts and figures, people, places and motivation. For simpletons like me, it is brilliant. I downloaded The Cold War in an Hour and sat down to read it.

Split into two parts, the first covers the story in detail - in this case, from the appearance of Stalin to the introduction of Yeltsin, via the Vietnam war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the rise and fall of multiple presidents and prime ministers. The second half is the appendix, with a quick overview of the main characters involved in the subject, and then a great timeline for just the key facts in the order they happened.

There were only two very brief moments where implied knowledge let me down, but it was only who the people were in the first place rather than how they fit into the story. A couple of tiny Google moments later and I was right back into it.

I really, really enjoyed reading it, learnt quite a lot, and am keen to pick up more of these books. The tagline “history for busy people” fits me perfectly, and with each book only about £1, there’s no excuse not to brush up on some more topics.

Rating: 4 / 5

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