Cold War Respite: The Geneva Summit of 1955

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LSU Press, 2000 - History - 319 pages
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At the midpoint of the "high" cold war, when most people in North America and Europe thought catastrophic nuclear onslaught was almost inevitable, an unprecedented and unrepeated event took place in Geneva in July 1955. The heads of state from the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France came together in an attempt at diplomatic dialogue, primarily over the questions of German unification, European security, and nuclear disarmament. Although the summit ended with no tangible results, its ramifications were extensive, and it provided the world with a brief repose from escalating East-West tension.

In Cold War Respite twelve scholars writing from several national perspectives investigate in riveting detail how that event -- examined only in passing until now -- came about, why its "spirit" was so short-lived, and what its subsequent impact was on the development of the cold war. Making use of newly declassified archives in the United States, France, Britain, and Russia, the authors provide some of the latest research and insights into early cold-war history as they track the crucial period from Stalin's death in 1953 until the summit. They consider John Foster Dulles's policy at Geneva and the meeting of the four foreign ministers that followed the summit.

As the essayists attest, the psychological effects of the summit were of immense significance to the history of international relations and reveal the complexity and dynamism of foreign affairs during the decades following World War II. While some argue that the series of international crises beginning in 1958 and culminating in 1962 might have been averted if the Geneva conference had been pursued more eagerly, othersargue that it is a credit to the summit that those events are studied today as examples of crisis management and not of nuclear war.


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John Prados
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About the author (2000)

GŁnter Bischof is associate professor of history at the University of New Orleans.
Saki Dockrill is senior lecturer in war studies at King's College London.

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