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Senior: 11 & 12: Unit 4: Cold War

Possible Topics to Choose Relating to the Cold War and Impact on a Particular Country

Some suggested topics:

  • Germany (might include Berlin Airlift / Blockade, 1949, division between West and East Germany, Marshall plan in West Germany), Berlin Wall 1961
  • Korean Peninsula (Korean War and beyond)
  • USA - ‘McCarthyism’
  • USA – role of the CIA
  • USSR – role of the KGB
  • Hungary Crisis 1956
  • Czech Crisis 1968
  • Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, also maybe focus on Fidel Castro, or Che Guevera)
  • USA (Reagan)
  • USSR (Gorbachev – ‘Glasnost’ and ‘Perestroika’)
  • Soviet Union (aka USSR) The break-up of the USSR and ‘finish’ of Communism there - 1989-1991
  • Yugoslavia (including  leadership of Tito)
  • The Cold War in Australia (including the Petrov Affair, and attempt to ban the Communist Party)
  • Historiography of the Cold War – should apply to all topics
  • The Cold War in Central and South America e.g. Chile
  • The Suez Crisis (Egypt, Israel, UK, France, USA, USSR)
  • China and the Cold War
  • Iran and the Cold War
  • Afghanistan (Soviet invasion)

This list is not exhaustive; you may suggest a different topic if your teacher approves.

Vietnam has been excluded from these suggestions, as it is our external exam topic, and will be studied in detail after completion of the IA3.

Possible Key Questions and Sub Questions

Key QuestionWhy could it be said that Germany was the epicentre for all the tensions between democracy and communism, especially during the early period of the Cold War era? Look at this website

Hypothesis: Germany became the epicentre of post-war heightened tensions between the US and USSR which intensified into the Cold War, and also the symbolic site of its conclusion many decades later in 1991 as the Berlin Wall fell.


1. What was the Berlin Blockade / Airlift of 1949, and why was it important in poisoning the relationship between the US and Sovet Union?

2. How was the division of Germany achieved, and what were its long-term consequences for the Cold War?

3. What was the Marshall Plan (1948), how did it impact Germany, and why and how did it affect US-Soviet relations in the Cold War? Look at this website   and also this website.

4. Why was the Berlin Wall built in 1961, and what impact did it have on the Cold War?


The Korean War
Key Question: In what ways was the Korean War a significant conflict in the Cold War and a prototype for many modern international conflicts involving the super powers?


  1. Why and how was it a conflict of ideologies (Communism vs Capitalism)
  2. How did the Korean War mark a shift in the focal point in the development of international tensions? (from Europe: Berlin, East Germany, annexation of Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania + Moldova -  to East Asia)
  3. Why and how was the Korean War one of the first ‘proxy’ wars – ie. A major war fought between the United States and a Soviet communist-supported enemy. A proxy war occurs when one or more opposing powers instigates a war and then uses third parties to fight on their behalf.
  4. How was the Korean War a prototype for US-involved wars in the last 70 years? See HERE.
  5. What is the continuing legacy of this war in today’s world? (North and South Korea – the Cold War has never ended for North Korea).

Possible Hypothesis and Signposting:

The Korean War demonstrated a significant shift and intensification of Cold War tensions which had enormous consequences and a profound and enduring impact on international relations. Where previously the Cold War conflicts had been totally focussed on Europe, the Korean War demonstrated that the battle over ideological differences had spread to Asia and inevitably to the world stage; it began the policy of ‘proxy wars’ in a third country that was to become a feature of other Cold War conflicts; and its effects continue to be felt 70 years later.



Hypothesis: Fidel Castro used his powerful Communist-brotherhood connections to deftly manipulate the opportunities afforded him, and to provoke and defy the United States.

Video Overview of the Cold War

How to Write In-Text References for Humanities

Significant People of the Cold War


US Presidents

  • Harry S. Truman
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (also Supreme Commander of US forces in NATO)
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon
  • Gerald Ford
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Ronald Reagan

Soviet Union Leaders

  • Josef Stalin
  • Nikita Khrushchev
  • Leonid Brezhnev
  • Yuri Andropov
  • Mikhail Gorbachev 
  • Boris Yeltsin

Chinese Leaders

  • Mao Zedong
  • Deng Xiaoping

Other National and State Leaders

  • Fidel Castro (Cuba)
  • Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
  • Kim Il Sung (North Korea)
  • Winston Churchill (Great Britain)
  • Margaret Thatcher (Great Britain)
  • Charles de Gaulle (France)
  • Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia)
  • Alexander Dubcek (Czechoslovakia)
  • Nicolae Ceaușescu (Romania)
  • Imry Nagy (Hungary)
  • Robert Menzies (Australia)
  • Gamal Abdel Nasser (The nationalist, Communist-leaning president of Egypt who seized the British-controlled Suez Canal in 1956)
  • Erich Honecker (Leader of Communist East Germany)
  • Willy Brandt ((Mayor of Berlin – playing a key role during the Cold War tensions centred around Berlin)
  • Mohammad Mosaddegh (Iran)
  • Reza Pahlavi (Shah of Iran)

Alan Dulles (Director of the CIA)

Henry Kissinger (US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser)

John Foster Dulles (US Secretary of State)

Douglas Macarthur (Commander of US forces in Pacific War; Commander of  US occupation of Japan; Commander of US forces in Korea)

Joseph McCarthy (Republican senator from Wisconsin who capitalized on Cold War fears of Communism in the early 1950s by accusing hundreds of government employees of being Communists and Soviet agents)

J. Edgar Hoover (Controversial Director of the FBI)

George Kennan (Containment Theory policy)

George C. Marshall (The Marshall Plan)

Lech Walesa (Leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement, who helped to bring about the end of one-party Communist rule in Poland)

Che Guevara (Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution).


The ENTIRE collection of resources provided by the BBC Library can now be searched on ONE single, powerful search platform, which retrieves print books, eBooks, database articles and websites. Click HERE for assistance.

Useful Websites

More Websites

McCarthyism and the Red Scare - Accessed via History Reference Centre database.

Cover ArtEbook: McCarthyism and the Communist Threat 

Provides an absorbing overview of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist "witch hunts" of the 1950s. Also explores the ways in which the McCarthy era shaped the trajectory of American politics and culture for decades to come.

Wikipedia: Espionage
(Good general introduction & overview of espionage)

YouTube: Espionage
Spyweb – Cambridge Spies & other spies

Wikipedia: US - CIA
YouTube: O.S.S. - U.S. - (O.S.S. later became CIA

Primary Source documents

Wilson Center Digital Archive :  excellent range of primary documents - use the search box to find your topic

The Avalon Project, Yale Law School : primary documents from the Cold War

CIA :  Assessing the Soviet threat

Library of Congress : Revelations from the Russian Archives_Cold War.  Documents translated into English and accessed via the Library of Congress

Office of The Historian, United State Government : Cold War years

British National Archives : The Cold War

John F Kennedy Museum : Cold War documents

History.Com -  videos of speeches from the Cold War 

Museum of Australian Democracy : The Petrov Affair

Korean War : Australian Government


Berlin Wall

Occupation and the Emergence of Two States (1945-1961) : German History in Documents and Images


Czech Crisis

CIA intelligence report - documented on 28 Oct 1986 'POLITICS IN THE SOVIET POLITBURO AND THE CZECH CRISIS'

Prague Spring Archive - Texas University

Speech by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev November 1968, as justification to Prague Spring  - Fordham University

Note:  In 1981, Yale Law reviewed the Brezhnev Doctrine - Law and Use of Force by States

Cold War studies (Transcript of Conversation between Brezhnev and Dubcek, 13 August 1968) - Harvard University

The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia - Michigan University

Crisis in Czechoslovakia - (includes translated documents, images, video & audio) Michigan State University

Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia - Wilson Centre Digital Archive

Czechoslovakia 1968 - includes CIA reports documenting the build-up to and Soviet Invasion

The Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.)

Look through the History databases above under 'Central Intelligence Agency' or 'C.I.A.'. There are many sources here!

Oliver Library Catalogue

Oliver Library Catalogue

Look here for books, eBooks, DVDs and websites.

Especially Useful Databases

Information in JSTOR is 3-5 years old

Other Useful Databases

Britannica Online

A great general encyclopedia, especially for Middle School, this is the largest, most authoritative encyclopedia in the world. Beside topical articles, it includes maps, photos, illustrations, videos, multimedia clips, and yearbooks from 1993 onward.

 Modern World History (Infobase) 

Username: brisboys and Password: trial. Look on the tab at the top and see if there are any 'Primary Sources'. On trial because of the corona virus shutdown until May 31.

 Gale Academic Onefile 

 Gale Ebooks 

Password: gift. This database is on trial until May 31, until end of corona virus shutdown. Look on the left-hand side for the different collections of ebooks and choose what you want.

When you are away from the campus you will need to login using the appropriate username and password, available in an email which has previously been sent to you by Ms King.

Ebooks from the Library Catalogue