Reassessing the Origins of the Cold War

Proposed area of research:

The research is related to the origins of Cold War, which in recent times is an area that has come to be a controversial topic because there has been a challenge to the conventional wisdom around the origins of Cold War particularly by scholars who come from New Left revisionism movement (Maddox, 2015). The conventional wisdom, particularly in the western scholarship and public discourse is focused on the idea that the Cold War was the result of Soviet actions and the American response to communist aggression. This traditional viewpoint on origin of Cold War is focused on the Soviet foreign policy goals and the dynamics of the Soviet system.

This research seeks to explore the challenge to this traditional viewpoint on the origins of Cold War by shifting focus to the American foreign policy and decisions. This research will explore documentary evidence in the foreign policy decisions by United States, press releases by state agencies and other official documents to explore the possible genesis of the Cold War in the foreign policy decisions in the United States, particularly under Presidents Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry Truman.


Aims and purpose of research:

The aim of this research is to explore whether the origins of Cold War lies in the American foreign policy decisions and not just in the Soviet foreign policy decisions and actions. There are now two opposing viewpoints that are put forth on the origins of Cold War; the traditional or conventional wisdom view that places the onus of origin of Cold War on the Soviet Union and the more recent New Left viewpoint that argues that the onus of origin of Cold War is also to be placed in the foreign policy decisions of the United States. This research study seeks to explore which of the two viewpoints is supported by historical evidence.

Theoretical context of research:

The origin of the Cold War has been linked to the American emphasis on its technological and economic prowess in the post war period and the American worry about the potential threat of the Soviet Union’s competitive powers in the same areas of technology and economics (Leffler, 1992). However, this research will explore the use of New Left literature to question the traditional Cold War orthodoxy (Maddox, 2015; Levin, 2013).

Research methodology:

Qualitative methods of research will be used in this research. As this study concerns complex and multi-layered data on origins of Cold War, a qualitative research method is appropriate for conducting an in-depth and insightful research in this area (Collins, 2010). The origins of Cold War involves a level of complexity and nuance, for which a qualitative approach is appropriate because the researcher can explore these multiple narratives and nuances within a qualitative framework (Berg, et al., 2004). The research design will be guided by positivism philosophy, which imbibes methodological and objective approach to data collection and analysis as well as allows the researcher to accept the data as it is presented without interpretation (Collins, 2010). In a complex area of study, like the origins of Cold War, which may include varied and opposing points of view in the literature on the subject, a positivist approach will allow the researcher to collect and analyse data in a methodological and objective manner.

The researcher will use two methods for collection of data and its analysis. The first is document analysis and the second is systematic literature method. Document analysis is a systematic review and evaluation of documents (Bowen, 2009). Document analysis is useful for examining and evaluating the role of foreign policy decision makers in their contribution to Cold War origins. Document analysis is a qualitative method involving review and evaluation of electronic and printed material (Bowen, 2009).

A systematic literature review is useful for locating high-quality literature from databases and it ensures that the researcher is able to access and identify all the available, relevant, and accessible literature in a systematic manner (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012). Systematic review allows the researcher to avoid bias, because the researcher has to take into account any literature sources that matches the inclusion criteria (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012). A systematic literature leads to meta-synthesis of relevant data as researcher collates “all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question” (Green, et al., 2011, p. 6). The explicit method helps decrease bias through use of search string, and inclusion and exclusion criteria (Green, et al., 2011). Researcher subjectivity is also reduced through this method as researcher selects all literature which fits inclusion criteria. Data from peer reviewed journals, books, and reports on electronic data bases will be used (Green, et al., 2011).

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Berg, B., Lune, H., & Lune, H. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (Vol. 5). Boston: Pearson.

Bettany-Saltikov, J. (2012). How To Do A Systematic Literature Review In Nursing: A Step-By-Step Guide: A Step by Step Guide. London : Mc Graw and Hill.

Bowen, G. (2009). Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40. doi:10.3316/QRJ0902027

Collins, H. (2010). Creative Research: The Theory and Practice of Research for the Creative Industries. Lausanne: AVA Publishing.

Green, S., Higgins, J., Alderson, P., Clarke, M., Mulrow, C., & Oxman, A. (2011). Introduction. In J. P. Higgins, & S. Green (Eds.), Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions . London: John Wiley and Sons.

Leffler, M. P. (1992). A preponderance of power: National security, the Truman administration, and the Cold War. Stanford University Press.

Levin, M. (2013). Cold war university: Madison and the new left in the sixties. University of Wisconsin Pres.

Maddox, R. J. (2015). The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War. Princeton University Press.

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