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

ISBN : 9780198748700

Archie Brown
512 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Mar 2020
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  • Tells a dramatic story about the part played by political leaders - particularly the three very different personalities of Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher - in ending the standoff that threatened the future of all humanity
  • Written by a historian with vast experience as an academic who has spent much time both in the United States and Russia as well as in his home country, Great Britain, studying East-West relations and the domestic influences on foreign policy
  • Archie Brown is a leading authority on Gorbachev and was the first person to draw Margaret Thatcher's attention to him (at a 1983 Chequers seminar) as a reform-minded likely future Soviet leader
  • The author has conducted interviews and had conversations with many of the important Soviet politicians and advisers of the perestroika period, and with leading British politicians, Foreign Office officials and UK ambassadors to Moscow who were closely involved in policy towards the Soviet Union

In this penetrating analysis of the role of political leadership in the Cold War's ending, Archie Brown shows why the popular view that Western economic and military strength left the Soviet Union with no alternative but to admit defeat is wrong. To understand the significance of the parts played by Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in East-West relations in the second half of the 1980s, Brown addresses several specific questions: What were the values and assumptions of these leaders, and how did their perceptions evolve? What were the major influences on them? To what extent were they reflecting the views of their own political establishment or challenging them? How important for ending the East-West standoff were their interrelations? Would any of the realistically alternative leaders of their countries at that time have pursued approximately the same policies?
The Cold War got colder in the early 1980s and the relationship between the two military superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, each of whom had the capacity to annihilate the other, was tense. By the end of the decade, East-West relations had been utterly transformed, with most of the dividing lines -including the division of Europe- removed. Engagement between Gorbachev and Reagan was a crucial part of that process of change. More surprising was Thatcher's role. Regarded by Reagan as his ideological and political soulmate, she formed also a strong and supportive relationship with Gorbachev (beginning three months before he came to power). Promoting Gorbachev in Washington as a man to do business with, she became, in the words of her foreign policy adviser Sir Percy Cradock, an agent of influence in both directions.



1: The Cold War and its Dangers
2: The Making of Mikhail Gorbachev
3: Gorbachev's Widening Horizons
4: The Rise of Ronald Reagan
5: Reagan's First Term
6: Margaret Thatcher: The Moulding of the 'Iron Lady'
7: Thatcher and the Turn to Engagement with Communist Europe

8: Breaking the ice (1985)
9: Nuclear Fallout: Chernobyl and Reykjavik (1986
10: Building trust (1987)
11: The End of the Ideological Divide (1988)
12: The End of the Cold War (1989)
13: Why the Cold War Ended When it Did
14: Unintended Consequences (1990)
15: Final Year - of the USSR and of Gorbachev's Power (1991)
16: Political Leadership and the End of the Cold War: Concluding Reflections


About the author: 

Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy, and an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of numerous books on the former Soviet Union and its demise, including The Gorbachev Factor (1996, also published by Oxford University Press) and The Rise and Fall of Communism (2009), both of which won both the Alec Nove Prize and the Political Studies Association's W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize for best politics book of the year. A leading authority on Mikhail Gorbachev, he was the first person to draw Margaret Thatcher's attention to Gorbachev (at a 1983 Chequers seminar) as a reform-minded likely future Soviet leader.

"A fascinating and instructive read ... Everybody will learn something from this first-class book." - Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times

"A masterly survey of the end of the cold war and the roles played in it by Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher." - Tony Barber, The Financial Times

"Lucidly written and scholarly." - The Spectator

"It is often a challenge for historians to find the right balance between the human factor and the historical forces at play. The value of Archie Brown's study [...] is that it does precisely that." - Christopher Coker, Literary Review

"Another tour de force from Archie Brown: detailed scholarship, elegant prose and a clear argument. Read this book to find why we should not ignore the human factor underpinning great historical shifts. A fascinating account of how the Cold War ended, explored through the personal interactions between three world leaders - Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher." - Bridget Kendall MBE, former BBC Diplomatic Moscow and Washington Correspondent

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