New Forest East

'COLD WAR HISTORY' – April 2004

'COLD WAR HISTORY' – April 2004


By Michael S. Goodman – University of Nottingham

Changing Direction: British Military Planning for Post-war Strategic Defence, 1942-47, by Julian Lewis (Frank Cass, 2nd edition, ISBN: 0714653993)  [Reviewed with four other books, including Know Your Enemy: How the Joint Intelligence Committee Saw the World (Sir Percy Cradock, hb, 2002) and The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War (Professor Peter Hennessy, pb, 2002).]

Recent British Cold War intelligence history is, in many respects, an outgrowth of the Waldegrave Initiative on Open Government. This programme resulted in the declassification of thousands of intelligence files. The opening of some post-war intelligence materials on both sides of the Atlantic – together with important material from the former communist bloc – have prompted fresh interpretations and have introduced an important additional facet to conventional Cold War history. Meanwhile, simultaneous archival releases relating to nuclear weapons – another area of previous heavy restriction under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act – have revealed remarkable new resources for Cold War historians. Accordingly, the release of these new materials has had an impact not only upon Cold War historiography in general, but has also allowed us to glimpse into a hitherto inaccessible topic – that of atomic intelligence history.

... Julian Lewis was the first serious academic researcher in the field, and his newly revised Changing Direction: British Military Planning for Post-war Strategic Defence, 1942-47 offers us a fascinating glimpse of what was possible during the days before the Waldegrave Initiative. Lewis makes ingenious use of re-circulated copies of documents closed elsewhere in an example of 'lateral' research strategy at its most inventive and successful. In this way, for example JIC documents were often circulated to various different governmental departments. While the vast majority of these remained classified in their original Cabinet series files, some of those that had been circulated ... had been declassified. In the new introduction, Lewis utilizes many recently released intelligence papers to underpin and supplement the main body of text in detailing the origins of Britain's post-war strategic planning.

... In many respects the early Cold War was a critical phase in East-West relations, with the attainment of a bipolar nuclear world forming a crucial break-point in its development. Accordingly, all of these books concentrate their discussions of atomic intelligence on this early period ... For an excellent overview of the developments in military perceptions of the Soviet Union, see the new introduction to Lewis, Changing Direction.

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