Through the History of the Cold War

Through the History of the Cold War

The Correspondence of George F. Kennan and John Lukacs

Book - 2010
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Blackwell Publishing
"George Kennan and I were two very different men: of different ancestries and backgrounds and temperaments and ages (twenty years) I do not think that either of us wrote letters with posterity in mind. Nor were our letters meant to be read by other people---whence some of the special value of their, often unusual, authenticity and sincerity."---John Lukacs, from the Introduction

"The historian's task is more difficult because there are certain things---people, motives, etc.---that he is not allowed to invent. That is why it is more difficult to write a great history than a great novel; conversely, it is easier to write a mediocre history than a mediocre novel. But the essential mode of their thinking is the same---personal and participant. And their main instruments are the same, too: words. Unlike other so-called `social sciences' history has no language of its own. It must be written, because it is spoken and thought and imagined in words; and, moreover, in words of our everyday languages....History and literature: the self-knowledge of mankind."---John Lukacs to George Kennan, 1986

"For truth...can sometimes be most usefully approached only through the talented stripping-away of the crusts of half-truth that so readily attach themselves to it and obscure it. You may recall the passage from Donne where he said that truth sits at the pinnacle of a very high hill, and that he who would approach her `about and about must go'---that he cannot hope to go the direct route. Perceptive, understanding and constructive criticism is therefore, as I see it, in itself a form of creative philosophical thought. And it is sometimes (because so many are incapable of looking the bright light in the face) the best way of communicating that thought to others."---Kennan to Lukacs, 1989

In September 1952, John Lukacs, then a young and unknown historian, wrote George Kennan (1904-2005), the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, asking him what he thought of Lukacs's own views on Kennan's widely debated idea of containing rather than militarily confronting the Soviet Union. A month later, to Lukacs's surprise, he received a personal reply from Kennan.

So began an exchange of letters that would continue for more than fifty years. Lukacs would go on to become one of America's most distinguished and prolific diplomatic historians, while Kennan, who would retire from public life to begin a new career as Pulitzer Prize-winning author, would become revered as the man whose strategy of containment led to a peaceful end to the Cold War. Their letters, collected here for the first time, capture the writing and thinking of two of the country's most important voices on America's role and place in world affairs. From the division of Europe into East and West after World War II to its unification as the Soviet Union disintegrated, and from the war in Vietnam to the threat of nuclear annihilation and the fate of democracy in America and the world, this book provides an insider's tour of the issues and pivotal events that defined the Cold War.

The correspondence also charts the growth and development of an intellectual and personal friendship that is intense, devoted, and honest. As Kennan writes in a later letter to Lukacs, "perceptive, understanding, and constructive criticism is...as I see it, in itself a form of creative philosophical thought." It is a belief to which both men subscribed and that they both practiced.

Presented with an introduction by Lukacs, the letters in Through the History of the Cold War reveal new dimensions to Kennan's thinking about America and its future and illuminate the political---and spiritual---philosophies that the two authors shared as they wrote about a world transformed by war and by the clash of ideologies that defined the twentieth century

University of Pennsylvania Press

Presented with an introduction by John Lukacs, the letters in this volume reveal new dimensions in George Kennan's thinking about America and its future and illuminate the political—and spiritual—philosophies that both authors shared as they wrote about a world transformed by war and the clash of ideologies that defined the twentieth century.


In September 1952, John Lukacs, then a young and unknown historian, wrote George Kennan (1904-2005), the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, asking one of the nation's best-known diplomats what he thought of Lukacs's own views on Kennan's widely debated idea of containing rather than militarily confronting the Soviet Union. A month later, to Lukacs's surprise, he received a personal reply from Kennan.

So began an exchange of letters that would continue for more than fifty years. Lukacs would go on to become one of America's most distinguished and prolific diplomatic historians, while Kennan, who would retire from public life to begin a new career as Pulitzer Prize-winning author, would become revered as the man whose strategy of containment led to a peaceful end to the Cold War. Their letters, collected here for the first time, capture the writing and thinking of two of the country's most important voices on America's role and place in world affairs. From the division of Europe into East and West after World War II to its unification as the Soviet Union disintegrated, and from the war in Vietnam to the threat of nuclear annihilation and the fate of democracy in America and the world, this book provides an insider's tour of the issues and pivotal events that defined the Cold War.

The correspondence also charts the growth and development of an intellectual and personal friendship that was intense, devoted, and honest. As Kennan later wrote Lukacs in letter, "perceptive, understanding, and constructive criticism is . . . as I see it, in itself a form of creative philosophical thought." It is a belief to which both men subscribed and that they both practiced.

Presented with an introduction by Lukacs, the letters in Through the History of the Cold War reveal new dimensions to Kennan's thinking about America and its future, and illuminate the political—and spiritual—philosophies that the two authors shared as they wrote about a world transformed by war and by the clash of ideologies that defined the twentieth century.



Publisher: Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [2010]
Copyright Date: ©2010
ISBN: 9780812242539
Branch Call Number: 909.825 KENNA KENNA
Characteristics: xii, 276 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Lukacs, John 1924-

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