Map Exercise 19: The Cold War (This exercise includes 5 maps.)
The history of Europe during the last half of the twentieth century has been profoundly influenced by the Cold War and decolonization. Although Europe has avoided an all-out war on the scale of World War I and World War II, the Cold War shaped the mentality of the era. From the wreckage of World War II there emerged two superpowers whose ideologies drew the world map in two colors: black and white. The Soviet Union and the United States carved up the globe into their own spheres of influence. As a result, there were two Germanies, two Berlins, perhaps even two Europes. The battle lines were drawn and peace was maintained by the hydrogen bomb, which the Soviets and Americans possessed in 1953. Peace was maintained by the threat of nuclear annihilation. Although the bomb threatened everyone, in the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Europe began to recover from war and dislocation. In 1949, the dissolved League of Nations was replaced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Soviets responded with the Warsaw Pact.
The 1960s witnessed an outpouring of social movements that countered the complacency of the previous decade. Racial consciousness, feminism, an international student protest movement, and American involvement in Vietnam created an environment of protest against all forms of authority. The year 1968 became the "year of the barricades." Although the events of 1968 hinted at things to come, it was not until 1989 that a fundamental change came over European society. Thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev's plan to reform Soviet society, the people's republics of Eastern Europe broke free from Moscow's control and the Berlin Wall, the great symbol of the Cold War, came tumbling down.
Major questions to consider in this exercise include:
• How did the Yalta Conference shape the post-war world?
• Why was it crucial that the United States and the Soviet Union divided Europe into spheres of influence?
• How did the policy of containment come to represent American policy in southeast Asia?