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History of Contemporary Warfare 1: the early Cold War, 1945–1975 (Module)

Module description

  • Induction and Orientation module
  • If studying War in the Modern World you must also complete History of Contemporary Warfare 1: the early Cold War, 1945–1975 and History of Contemporary Warfare 2: from Cold War to War on Terror, 1975-2011.
  • If studying International Relations and Contemporary War, you must also complete International Relations and Contemporary War 1: Theories and Concepts and International Relations and Contemporary War 2: Problems and Issues.

Study units

  • The Origins of the Cold War
  • The Spread of the Cold War to Asia
  • The Cold War in the Middle East
  • The Nuclear Arms Race and the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • The Vietnam War


This module examines the development of contemporary warfare during the period from the end of World War II to the early 1970s. It is a key component of the overall programme and provides the foundation for the more detailed engagement with issues and concepts relating to the conduct of war in the modern world that follows in the later modules. As well as gaining knowledge and understanding of the key events of the early Cold War, students are encouraged to examine developments in strategic theory and crisis management. This is achieved by extensive use in the learning objects of archival material to demonstrate how vital issues of war and peace presented themselves to political leaders at times of crisis, and the difficult choices they faced.

Our main focus is the military and political impact of the global rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. The module begins by examining the origins of the Cold War with the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as superpowers and the division of Europe, culminating in the Berlin Blockade in 1948–49. The module then analyses the spread of the Cold War to Asia and the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Korean War and the 1956, 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. The module also examines another key feature of the Cold War: the nuclear arms race. It follows the qualitative and quantitative nuclear arms race between the superpowers and considers the different strategies of nuclear war. As an example, the unit looks at the most dangerous nuclear confrontation of the Cold War, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The module concludes with a detailed study of the Vietnam War.

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.

Staff information

Not applicable

Teaching pattern

One-term course, 1 x 11 weeks

Module assessment - more information

All War Studies Online modules are 20-credit modules and will be assessed by:

  • 1 x 1500-word short essay
  • 1 x 3000-word long essay
  • In addition you will be assessed on participation within the discussions

Key information

Module code 7SSWM197

Credit level 7

Assessment coursework

Credit value 20 credits

Semester Semester 1 (autumn)

Study abroad module No