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The best books on The Cold War

recommended by Archie Brown

The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War by Archie Brown

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The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War
by Archie Brown

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American military and economic superiority cannot explain why the Cold War came to an end in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to the historian Archie Brown, you need to accept the primacy of politics and human agency both in the USSR and the West. He chooses five books to understand the Cold War and offers some broader reflections on the qualities of good political leadership—then and now.

Interview by Eve Gerber

The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War by Archie Brown

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The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War
by Archie Brown

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As an internationally influential expert on Russian politics and the author of nearly 20 books, you’ve shaped our understanding of the Cold War since the sixties. Before we delve into the subject, could you put on a historiographer’s hat and tell us about the forces that affected the way the history of the Cold War has been written?

There are writers on the Cold War who believe that the internal politics of the countries involved are of little consequence. All that really matters is the relative military and economic power of the antagonists. To the extent that I have added something to the debate, it may be by arguing that internal political change can be of decisive significance, and that, in the case of the Soviet Union during the second half of the 1980s, it was. There is some excellent writing by scholars in different countries, with notable contributions from the United States as well as by some outstanding Russian scholars. However, there is no shortage of writing on the Cold War which is highly colored by national preconceptions and illusions.

“There is no shortage of writing on the Cold War which is highly colored by national preconceptions and illusions”

Thus, there are authors who held that change within the Soviet system was impossible until it happened and that the Soviet Union would never accept the independence of the countries of Eastern Europe until it did. After these things occurred, what had previously been impossible became inevitable. The Soviet Union simply could not keep up, we were told, so they had no alternative but to cave in. That begs so many questions, among them why Russia, minus the fourteen other republics which made up the Soviet Union, is so much less of a co-operative international partner now than it was in the late 1980s.

In Russia itself, there is, paradoxically, a partial convergence with American triumphalist accounts of the Cold War’s ending. The fashionable contemporary Russian line is that the United States did win the Cold War, but they did so because the United States was determined to destroy the Soviet Union and because Gorbachev ignored the advice of the Soviet military-industrial complex, betrayed Russian national interests and was a weak leader. Some Russian writers go so far as to call him a traitor.

Contemporary intellectual fashion and political conformity can, of course, influence the way history is written. There are authors on both sides of the old Cold War divide who transcend these national (and at times nationalist) narratives, with their simplifications and distortions, but too many who do not.

The Rise and Fall of Communism, your superb topic survey, had a huge impact. What did you set out to do by writing it?

My aim was to produce a thoroughly researched but readable history of Communism from its intellectual origins to the 21st century, showing the varied ways in which Communist systems came into being in different places, why they lasted for as long they did, and why and how they came to an end, as they have done almost everywhere. The most important of the few remaining Communist states is, of course, China. It remains highly authoritarian but, in important respects, it constitutes a hybrid system. The political power structure characteristic of Communism has been preserved. But the economy is vastly different. If Marx, Lenin or (more to the point) Mao could see it, they would be horrified by the extent to which a Communist Party has turned to the market and allowed the growth of a substantial private sector.

I might add that I was quite well prepared for the task of writing The Rise and Fall of Communism. I had been teaching courses on the comparative study of Communism, first in Glasgow and then for 34 years at Oxford. I had also a lot of experience of living and talking with people in Communist countries (at one point I spent an entire year in Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union).

The Human Factor, the title of your latest publication, is a phrase Gorbachev used frequently. Please tell us about the history of the phrase and your book.

The fact that Gorbachev often used the term ‘the human factor’ (chelovecheskiy faktor in Russian) was one reason for choosing that title. It’s worth noting that in emphasizing the importance of the individual in Soviet society and the significance of the human relations between leaders on opposite sides of the Cold War divide, he was, as in so many other respects, departing from Marxism-Leninism and Soviet orthodoxy.

But the main reason why I think the title is apt is that individual leaders really were of decisive importance for the Cold War ending when it did, peacefully, and through negotiation. That Ronald Reagan preferred the judgement of George Shultz to that of Caspar Weinberger on American engagement with the Soviet Union really mattered, and that Margaret Thatcher was the foreign leader whose judgement he most respected was also of huge significance. She reinforced his inclination to negotiate with his Soviet counterpart and helped to persuade him that Gorbachev was a very different kind of Soviet leader from his predecessors and one who was serious about changing the system he had inherited. She was a notable counterweight to those in the Reagan Administration who remained unconvinced that anything more than cosmetic change was occurring in Moscow.

Most important of all, none of the realistic alternative Soviet leaders to Mikhail Gorbachev would have tolerated, still less promoted, freedom of speech, the legitimation of dissent, and contested elections in the Soviet Union or have risked raising expectations in Eastern Europe. Those who think that any Soviet leader would have had to pursue policies similar to Gorbachev’s because of military or economic necessity are profoundly mistaken.

Making your list of five books about the Cold War will be an honor for the authors listed. Before we talk about their books, please tell me about the criteria you used in making your choices.

For Americans, the US-Soviet rivalry was the central feature of the Cold War. The rest of the world, too, was enormously impacted by that relationship. If it had ended in all-out nuclear war, the very survival of humankind would have been in jeopardy. Not surprisingly, then, two of the five books I pick out focus on the US-Soviet relationship (those by Leffler and Matlock). But the Cold War affected every part of the globe, albeit in varying degrees. The real fighting took place not on the territory of either superpower, but mainly in Asia. So it is important to see the Cold War in the round which is what Westad’s book does. Nevertheless, the most visible manifestation of the Cold War throughout its entire history was the division of Europe. Therefore, a book which focuses on Eastern Europe, and on how the division of the European continent was overcome (Lévesque) is a central part of the story.

“At times of high tension during the Cold War, the world came closer to catastrophic nuclear war than most people realized at the time”

Ideas, as well as leadership and power, mattered. That is particularly true of ideological change in the Soviet Union—the origins and development of what, in the Gorbachev era, became known as the ‘New Thinking’, and which underlay radically new policies. It is for that reason that I include the scholarly study by English. I have also consciously chosen three books which deal with the Cold War period as a whole, and two (by Lévesque and Matlock) that focus on its ending.

Let’s begin with Odd Arne Westad’s The Cold War: A World History. How did this book expand our understanding of the Cold War?

The book’s strength is its breadth. There are some who look back to the Cold War period with a certain nostalgia, thinking this was a time of prudent and disciplined rivalry in which there were rules of the game regulating US-Soviet relations. There is some truth in that last point, but it is also true that at times only good luck averted a devastating nuclear war neither side wanted.

What Westad’s book describes is the Cold War as a whole, not just in the places on which most studies have focused—the United States, the Soviet Union and Europe—but also in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He challenges the view that this was a ‘long peace’. It was not a long peace for Koreans and Vietnamese, nor indeed for the Americans who were killed in those wars far from their native shores. Not many scholars know both Russian and Chinese, write in English, and have a native language which is different again. Westad, a Norwegian, is one such scholar, and his book has the additional merit of being highly readable.

Westad makes clear that the Cold War shaped politics in every part of the world. How can we relay, to recent generations, the reach and influence of the Cold War conflict? Why is it important that we never forget?

I’ve touched on that already. At times of high tension during the Cold War, the world came closer to catastrophic nuclear war than most people realized at the time. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is the best-known example. If Nikita Khrushchev had not been prepared to withdraw Soviet missiles from Cuba, and if President Kennedy had been less patient, or unwilling to make concessions of his own, we might not be here having this conversation today.

There were other occasions when it seemed as if Soviet missiles had been launched against the United States and when (at a different time) American missiles were apparently heading for the Soviet Union. They were all the result of technical failure or human error. We were more reliant than we knew at the time on the cool heads and prudent judgement of the officers on both sides who had to advise their military superiors whether the attack was for real or a false alarm.

For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War by Bancroft Prize-winning historian Melvin Leffler is your next selection. Please tell us about it.

I’ve chosen books which combine sound scholarship with readability. Melvyn Leffler’s book admirably meets those criteria. He covers the Cold War from beginning to end, but focusing above all on the US-Soviet relationship. He is particularly strong on the American side of the story, having done a great deal of fruitful archival research, including the archives of every relevant Presidential Library. He combines that with wide reading of the memoirs and of the specialist academic literature. There is a lot of debate on the Cold War, not least on its ending. Leffler’s judgements on the contentious issues are among the most solidly based and wisest.

In your chapter for The Cambridge History of the Cold War and at greater length in your new book, you argue that Gorbachev played the most crucial part in ending the Cold War. Why do you maintain that?

There is a widespread view that the Soviet Union was forced by American military superiority, or by its inability to keep up with the West economically, to concede defeat in the Cold War. Tempting though that is for many in the West to believe, it glides over the fact that when, in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the US had an undoubted military superiority over the Soviet Union, Communism continued to expand. From the early 1970s, the Soviet Union had acquired approximate military parity with the US, and that was still the case in the mid-1980s, Reagan’s increased military spending notwithstanding. Since each military superpower had the means utterly to destroy the other, why should the Soviet side be forced to make concessions at a time of parity which it did not make when it was manifestly the weaker of the two rivals?

Then there is the economic determinist explanation of the Cold War’s ending. While it is true that the Soviet economy lagged behind its Western competitors (and was being overtaken by the newly industrializing Asian countries), it was not in crisis in the mid-1980s. The system remained stable, and the Soviet state could have muddled through economically for decades to come, while maintaining censorship, the highly authoritarian system and the image of the United States as a dangerous enemy (in the face of which citizen unity and eternal vigilance were required).

“While it is true that the Soviet economy lagged behind its Western competitors, it was not in crisis in the mid-1980s”

The economistic argument falls flat because Gorbachev proceeded to give far higher priority to radical political reform (which did nothing to improve the economic performance) than he did to marketization of the economy. He embraced the principle of the market only in his last two years as Soviet leader—as late as 1990—and even then it was in principle only. His intellectual acceptance that a market economy would do more to raise living standards than the centralized command economy could achieve did not lead him to risk the transition to the market, for in the short term this would have added to the country’s economic woes and to popular discontent.

Gorbachev’s fundamental difference from his predecessors, and from any of his potential rivals for the Soviet leadership in 1985, lay in his commitment to radical reform of the Soviet political system (by the summer of 1988 that meant for him systemic change) and to ending the Cold War. Reagan policies that were for other Soviet leaders reasons to ramp up still further Soviet military spending were for Gorbachev merely additional evidence of the need to put an end to the senseless arms race. He had to overcome the resistance of the country’s vast military-industrial complex and of skeptical colleagues in the highest party echelons. With great political skill, sometimes taking one step back before taking two steps forward, he persuaded or cajoled the Politburo into acquiescing with fundamental change of the political system and of foreign and defense policy, even though a majority of the members of that top policy-making body harbored grave doubts about what they were signing up to.

Next you’ve chosen an intellectual history by Robert English. Please tell us about Russia and the Idea of the West.

This book is in one respect the odd one out of the five. It is more of a specialist work. It is well-written, but very detailed in its account of the gradual emergence of new ideas in Soviet small-circulation books and journals long before the perestroika years (1985-1991). These ideas were empowered and radicalized following Gorbachev’s arrival in the Kremlin.

The other books in my list have much to offer specialists, but are consciously aimed at a broader readership. Robert English’s account of how radically new ideas were being developed by a minority of intellectuals within the Communist Party may have too many unfamiliar names and concepts to appeal to many general readers. But what he persuasively contends is little understood by a lot of authors who write on the Cold War, particularly those who think that it was ended by a combination of Ronald Reagan’s military build-up and his belligerent rhetoric, such as describing the Soviet Union as an ‘evil empire’, or who imagine that there was cause and effect between his speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’) and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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We need to understand that there were different strands of thinking within the Soviet Communist Party and fresh ideas emerging long before Reagan entered the White House, but—as English makes clear—it was only with Gorbachev’s succession to the party leadership that (to quote the title of his penultimate chapter), ‘The New Thinking Comes to Power’. There was influence from the West over the post-Stalin decades, but within the Communist Party it came from Western culture, contacts between Soviet and Western intellectuals, and the attraction for an increasing number of Soviet citizens of democracy combined with greater prosperity. What influenced them least of all was strident anti-Soviet rhetoric.

The Enigma of 1989 by Canadian political scientist Jacques Lévesque is your next choice. Tell us about it.

Lévesque’s starting-point is that there really is an enigma to be resolved: how was it that something which Western leaders had long accepted was completely non-negotiable for their Soviet counterparts—the continued existence of a bloc in Eastern Europe whose leaders preserved the monopoly of power of the Communist Party and loyally supported Soviet foreign policy—could dissolve in the space of a year at the end of the 1980s? Lévesque conducted many interviews with the leading political actors in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the first half of the 1990s when their memories of recent events were still fresh. His book was first published in French in 1995 and in English translation in 1997.

Although Gorbachev’s strong preference was for a social democratization of the Communist Parties in Eastern Europe, which was the direction in which he was trying to lead his own party, he paid less attention to the Sovietized part of the European continent than he did to Western Europe. He much preferred talking with Western leaders than with the ‘comrades’ in eastern and central Europe. His position was, however, that governments and peoples in Eastern Europe had to sort out their relations, peacefully, for themselves. Those East European Communist leaders who were ready to use force to quell their domestic opposition, if only they could get Soviet approval for a crackdown, not only failed to get it, but received word from Moscow strongly discouraging them from resorting to force.

Gorbachev, in a speech at the UN in December 1988, said that the people of every country had the right to decide for themselves what kind of system they wished to live in, and he characterized the use of force in international relations as obsolete in the nuclear age. In 1989 he remained true to those principles. The surprisingly calm response of Gorbachev and his top foreign policy team to seeing Communist rule cast aside must also be understood, as Lévesque observes, in the context of their social democratization. An important reason why the political transformation of Eastern Europe, which would have seemed like the end of the world to his predecessors, was not viewed in anything like such apocalyptic terms by Gorbachev and his closest associates was because, as Lévesque appositely remarks, the idea of socialism had become for them ‘constantly more open, elastic, and eclectic’.

Why did the collapse of Communism take the world by surprise?

Part of the answer is that ever since Europe was divided at the end of the Second World War, the United States and its allies had taken the view that the Soviet Union would not allow defection from their camp, and that for the West to try to stop them cracking down on stirrings of independence in a client state would be to risk catastrophic nuclear war. Thus, Western countries condemned the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the martial law imposed in Poland in 1981 (long urged on the Polish party leadership by Moscow). However, they took no concrete steps to try to ‘roll back Communism’ in Eastern Europe, in spite of the rhetoric about doing so which surfaced from time to time in the US.

A minority view among Western leaders was that engagement with Soviet and Eastern European countries at all levels would in the long run promote internal change there. Willy Brandt in West Germany was the most notable exponent of such a strategy. But none of them expected it to happen as quickly as it did. Soviet non-intervention was the big surprise for the rest of the world. The countries of Eastern Europe would have become non-Communist and independent decades earlier but for their assumption, correct until Gorbachev entered the Kremlin, that this would not be tolerated by Moscow and they would be making a bad situation worse.

Another part of the answer is the lack of understanding on the part of Western leaders and publics that a huge diversity of opinion lay behind the monolithic façade of most ruling Communist Parties. Certainly, that was true of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Because I was well aware of how the ‘Prague Spring’ came about—emerging from a reform movement within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia—I was open to the idea that something similar could happen inside the CPSU. Others, even some who understood the process of change within 1960s Czechoslovakia, remained skeptical that anything remotely like that could happen in the Soviet Union. They assumed—and there was some foundation for such an assumption—that Czech and Russian political cultures were very different.

An eyewitness account of the closing chapters of the Cold War is your final choice. Please tell me about Jack Matlock’s Reagan and Gorbachev.

Jack Matlock’s book, like Lévesque’s, is on the end of the Cold War, but is quite different because it is overwhelmingly concerned with US-Soviet relations. It differs in another respect from all four of the other books I’ve discussed, for it is written by an insider—a participant-observer in the policy process. Reagan and Gorbachev is one of three valuable books Matlock has written since he retired from the government service. Now aged 90, he was a career diplomat who played a significant and very constructive role in the process whereby the Cold War was ended. In 1983 he succeeded Richard Pipes as the top Soviet specialist on Reagan’s National Security Council.

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His policy preferences were very different from those of his predecessor. Pipes believed that no good could come of Reagan talking with Soviet leaders and was highly skeptical of the value of engagement. Matlock, in contrast, believed it was necessary to engage and he fully supported Reagan’s own desire to meet his Soviet counterparts. From Washington Matlock moved to Moscow, as American ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991. He was a rare example of a consequential Reagan Administration foreign policy appointee who kept his position after George H.W. Bush arrived in the White House.

Matlock’s book is based on a great deal of first-hand knowledge, on the careful records he kept at the time, and on the research he has conducted since leaving government service. While aware of Ronald Reagan’s intellectual shortcomings and blind spots, Matlock takes a highly positive view of him and of the part he played in the Cold War’s ending. He deplores, as did George Shultz, the fact that the Bush administration took so long to carry on where Reagan left off, thus losing momentum in the US-Soviet relationship and weakening Gorbachev’s position. Matlock recognizes Gorbachev’s indispensability for the Cold War ending so peaceably and in such a short space of time.

Margaret Thatcher sought your counsel to help her conduct the triangular relationship with the Soviets and Americans, which led to the end of the Cold War. What did your participation teach you about the role of expertise in statecraft?

Margaret Thatcher had many faults. She tried to do too much herself, bullied her ministers, particularly Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe, and she became too sure she was always right. But her role in the ending of the Cold War was greater than has been recognized and greater than the disparity between British military power and that of the American and Soviet superpowers would lead a ‘realist’ to expect.

One of Thatcher’s strengths was to do her homework. She held many seminars on different aspects of policy to which outside experts were invited. She took great pains to be well-informed. I was an active participant in three such seminars—two at the prime minister’s official country residence, Chequers (in 1983 and 1987), and the other a much more informal discussion in 10 Downing Street in December 1984, the evening before Mikhail Gorbachev arrived for his first visit to Britain, three months prior to his becoming Soviet leader. I had been invited to brief her specifically on Gorbachev, who had first been brought to her attention by a paper I wrote for the 8 September 1983 seminar. The most important of these seminars was that 1983 one. As the now declassified government papers clearly show, it led to a change of British foreign policy—to what the documents describe as ‘a new policy’ of engagement with Communist Europe (both USSR and Eastern Europe).

“Margaret Thatcher had many faults . . . But her role in the ending of the Cold War was greater than has been recognized”

Up to that point, the Prime Minister had been skeptical about the idea that any good could come from engaging with the ‘evil empire’. Her views on this subject had remained close to Reagan’s. The British Foreign Office (our equivalent of the State Department) was concerned about the Cold War getting dangerously colder. They were anxious to improve East-West relations, but Thatcher had a deep distrust of the Foreign Office as an institution, believing that they were much too ready to compromise. That the academic experts at the 1983 seminar were even more in favor of engagement with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—at all levels, we urged, from dissidents to general secretaries—helped to swing the Prime Minister behind a policy that the Foreign Office had hitherto failed to get her to adopt.

Thatcher prepared extraordinarily thoroughly for every meeting with Gorbachev who, for his part, was greatly impressed by how closely she had been following Soviet developments. They argued vigorously, but with a mutual respect, which developed into a surprising friendship. The fact that she was Reagan’s favorite foreign leader—he referred to her as a ‘soulmate’—made her all the more important in Gorbachev’s eyes, for she exercised real influence with Reagan personally and in his administration.

The Prime Minister’s official foreign policy adviser in 10 Downing Street, Sir Percy Cradock, worried that, ‘Iron Lady’ image notwithstanding, Gorbachev had become ‘something of an icon’ for her and that ‘she acted as a conduit from Gorbachev to Reagan, selling him in Washington as a man to do business with, and acting as an agent of influence in both directions’. Cradock disapproved of that, but I take the opposite view. In contrast with much of her diplomacy in Western Europe and her hostility to German unification, she played a valuably constructive role in the changing relationship with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

It was to Thatcher’s credit that she worked so hard to become well-informed. She was able to assimilate knowledge to a much greater extent than Reagan could, although he also prepared assiduously for summit meetings. Gorbachev gradually came to respect Reagan and they shared a desire (not endorsed by Thatcher) to rid the world entirely of nuclear weapons, but he also found the President obtuse. Thatcher, in contrast, with her vigor in debate and relevant facts at her fingertips, kept the Soviet leader on his toes. Not only Reagan, but Gorbachev at times also, was influenced by her.

As the coronavirus pandemic peaks, after decades during which authoritarianism seemed on the rise, your words in The Myth of the Strong Leader seem so prophetic that I must quote them: “When corners are cut because one leader is sure he knows best, problems follow, and they can be on a disastrous scale.” Please describe The Myth of the Strong Leader and its pertinence to the 2020s.

My academic interests have always been much broader than Soviet, Russian and Communist politics and have included other countries and other subjects. A recurring theme of my research and writing has been political leadership. The first really substantial article I published in an academic journal (in the 1960s) was on the powers and leadership styles of British prime ministers. The book you mention, The Myth of the Strong Leader, is on political leadership worldwide, focusing mainly on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I stress the danger of heads of government concentrating too much power in their hands and believing that they alone have the right to take all the big decisions. While that applies especially to authoritarian regimes—where a more collective leadership is usually a lesser evil than personal dictatorship—it is applicable also to democracies. Dangerously foolish risks are taken when a president or prime minister surrounds himself by people who are afraid to disagree with him or her, and when groupthink takes the place of uninhibited discussion in which neither senior colleagues nor expert advisers are afraid to air views contrary to those of the top leader.

Leaders who suffer from the illusion that they always know best and that their intuition is worth more than the professional knowledge or political understanding of lesser mortals are especially dangerous during a pandemic. Britain has not done well during the coronavirus health crisis. There are many reasons for that, but one is that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has never shared Margaret Thatcher’s concern with mastering policy detail and he was too ready to believe his own upbeat rhetoric.

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But Johnson looks less bad in comparison with a President of the United States who is manifestly out of his depth in that role, but fails to realize it. Faced by fundamental global problems which cannot be fixed by building walls or populist invective—the coronavirus and, of even greater significance, climate change—a policy of ‘America First’ is as dangerous for the United States as it is for other countries. It also greatly damages the US’s reputation in the rest of the world. Even as early as 2017, in only two out of 37 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center was Donald Trump rated ahead of his far more highly esteemed predecessor Barack Obama. (The two exceptions were Russia and Israel.)

Since the spread of the coronavirus has been especially rapid and severe in the United States, as compared with many Asian and European countries that from its onset adopted more stringent, consistent and rational policies, Trump’s reputation has plummeted further. He is, I regret to say, a prime example of ‘the myth of the strong leader’—a leader who likes to look tough, relishing the power to follow his own whims, regardless of the evidence. This appeals to a segment of the population who admire that kind of ‘strength’ in a leader, although there are other, and far more desirable, qualities we would wish a head of government to possess—among them, integrity, intelligence, empathy, collegiality, diligence and (if we are lucky) vision. Presenting himself, with bombast and bluster, as ‘strong’ may be of some utility for a president perpetually running for re-election, but it is no way to govern a great country.

Interview by Eve Gerber

May 20, 2020

Five Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books (or even just what you say about them) please email us at editor@fivebooks.com

Archie Brown

Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University and Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1991 and has been an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2003. His latest book is The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War (Oxford University Press, 2020). Brown’s previous books include The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age, chosen by Bill Gates as one of the best five books he read in 2016; The Rise and Fall of Communism which won the W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize of the Political Studies Association of the UK for best politics book of the year and also the Alec Nove Prize; and The Gorbachev Factor, an earlier winner of both the Mackenzie and Nove prizes.

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Archie Brown

Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University and Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1991 and has been an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2003. His latest book is The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War (Oxford University Press, 2020). Brown’s previous books include The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age, chosen by Bill Gates as one of the best five books he read in 2016; The Rise and Fall of Communism which won the W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize of the Political Studies Association of the UK for best politics book of the year and also the Alec Nove Prize; and The Gorbachev Factor, an earlier winner of both the Mackenzie and Nove prizes.