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The Cold War and the United States Information Agency
American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945–1989


Award Winner
  • Date Published: September 2008
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521819978

£ 82.00

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About the Authors
  • Published at a time when the US government's public diplomacy has been in crisis, this book provides an exhaustive account of how it used to be done. The United States Information Agency was created, in 1953, to 'tell America's story to the world' and, by engaging with the world through international information, broadcasting, culture, and exchange programs, became an essential element of American foreign policy during the Cold War. Based on newly declassified archives and more than 100 interviews with veterans of public diplomacy, from the Truman administration to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nicholas J. Cull relates both the achievements and the endemic flaws of American public diplomacy in this period. Major topics include the process by which the Truman and Eisenhower administrations built a massive overseas propaganda operation; the struggle of the Voice of America to base its output on journalistic truth; the challenge of presenting civil rights, the Vietnam War, and Watergate to the world; and the climactic confrontation with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. This study offers remarkable and new insights into the Cold War era.

    • The first complete archive-based history of the subject
    • Subject made especially relevant by 9/11 and the War on Terror
    • Readable with mix of human stories and high policy
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    • Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Highly recommended.' Choice

    'Nicholas Cull's comprehensive history of USIA begins by clarifying what is meant by 'public diplomacy.' This is a great service, because since 9/11 every committee, think tank, advisory board and broom closet in Washington has published a report on the topic … none cuts through the semantic muddle as deftly as Mr Cull.' Martha Bayles, Wall Street Journal

    'Cull's masterful history will be the gold standard in scholarship on USIA.' Bruce Gregory, Naval War College Review

    'Exhaustively researched, lucidly written with an obvious enthusiasm for the subject, The Cold War and the US Information Agency deserves to become a standard text of public diplomacy.' Lawrence Raw, Journal of Popular Culture

    'At a time when public diplomacy is more important than ever before, Nick Cull has provided a comprehensive examination that should be of great value to professionals, scholars, and concerned citizens. Thoroughly researched and clearly organized, the book illuminates the evolution of public diplomacy in the United States during the Cold War, highlights successes and failures, and suggests lessons for the future.' Melvyn P. Leffler, Stettinius Professor of American History, University of Virginia

    'American soft power has recently been in decline, yet we used public diplomacy as a key instrument of soft power during the Cold War decades. This important book tells the story of how we did it, and what we need to do it again.' Joseph S. Nye, Jr, University Distinguished Service Professor, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

    'Although US capabilities in public diplomacy have withered over the past decade, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency suggests the importance of examining the lessons that might be learned from earlier successes and failures of 'soft power'. Drawing on prodigious archival research and engagingly written, Cull presents the first comprehensive history and assessment of the varied elements that comprised the USIA's mission to tell 'America's story to the world'. He consistently weaves insightful analysis into an engrossing and timely narrative.' Emily S. Rosenberg, University of California, Irvine

    'In The Cold War and the United States Information Agency, Nick Cull has written the definitive history of US public diplomacy. It is a masterwork, meticulously researched and engagingly written, and should be required reading for anyone who cares about US foreign policy.' Kristin M. Lord, Associate Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

    '[Nicholas Cull's] conclusions are based on a huge amount of evidence, which he presents in a lucid manner. This is an important book, if a melancholy one, and deserves to be read by historians and practitioners alike.' The Times Literary Supplement

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2008
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521819978
    • length: 600 pages
    • dimensions: 260 x 185 x 35 mm
    • weight: 1.16kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Prologue: the foundations of US information overseas
    1. Getting the sheep to speak: the Truman years, 1945–53
    2. Mobilizing 'the P-Factor': Eisenhower and the birth of the USIA, 1953–6
    3. In the shadow of Sputnik: the second Eisenhower administration, 1957–61
    4. Inventing truth: the Kennedy administration, 1961–3
    5. Maintaining confidence: the early Johnson years, 1963–5
    6. 'My radio station': the Johnson administration, 1965–9
    7. Surviving détente: the Nixon years, 1969–74
    8. A new beginning: the Ford administration, 1974–7
    9. From the 'two-way' mandate to the second Cold War: the Carter administration, 1977–81
    10. 'Project Truth': the first Reagan administration, 1981–4
    11. Showdown: the second Reagan administration, 1985–9
    Epilogue: victory and the strange death of the USIA, 1989–99
    Conclusion: trajectories, maps, and lessons from the past of US public diplomacy.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Historical Foundations in American Studies
    • History of the International Sound Film
    • Public Diplomacy in Shaping Policy
    • The Culture of Modernization
  • Author

    Nicholas J. Cull, University of Southern California
    Nicholas J. Cull is Professor of Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. He is the author of Selling War; The British Propaganda Campaign Against American 'Neutrality' in World War II and the co-editor (with David Culbert and David Welch) of Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the Public Diplomacy Council, and President of the International Association for Media and History.


    • Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009

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