Reviews on Cold War Crucible

“Overall, Masuda has written an innovative, ambitious, and immensely valuable study. […]. There is no doubt of Masuda’s overall achievement. This is a superb work that bridges international and social history, underpinned by highly impressive research, to make arguments of real importance for our understanding of the Cold War.”
Rana Mitter (Oxford University), author of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945

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“Masuda Hajimu’s Cold War Crucible is a unique and valuable contribution to the historiography of the Korean War — or more precisely, to the history of the Cold War and the Korean War’s central place in the emergence of that global conflict. […]. This is the first book to see the Korean War as global social history.”
Charles K. Armstrong (Columbia University), author of Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950 – 1992

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“Masuda’s efforts to simultaneously move between diplomatic and social history and to capture the entanglements of the local and the global across several continents are quite breathtaking, as is his work with primary sources in dozens of archives and libraries in China, Taiwan, Japan, Great Britain and the United States. […]. [T]he reviewers here all agree that Masuda “hits one right out of the park” with Cold War Crucible. It should be required reading for all of us in the field, and deserves a central place on undergraduate and graduate syllabi on Cold War history and the international histories of the twentieth century.”
—Mark Philip Bradley (University of Chicago), author of The World Reimagined: Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century


“An original and important book, which challenges established truths and significantly adds to our understanding of the early Cold War. Masuda’s work is a useful corrective to histories of the Korean War that focus mainly on U.S. perspectives. Cold War history at its best!”

Odd Arne Westad (Harvard University), author of Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750


“This is a wonderful book that will certainly be widely quoted and incorporated into a large set of literatures on the Cold War. It manages to do all the things that truly successful academic works must: be enough of its time to be understood and appreciated, be enough ahead of scholarly trends to be far reaching and edgy, be well written and accessible, be based on solid research that will stand the test of time, and perhaps most importantly be on a topic that is large enough and relevant enough that different sub-audiences of scholars will care to read it. In all these respects, Masuda Hajimu hits one right out of the park. […]. No other scholar would have even attempted such a wide ranging monograph backed up with such a range of primary sources. The attention that the book will undoubtedly receive is entirely merited, and its arguments will set the standard for quite some time to come.”

Julia C. Strauss (SOAS, University of London), H-Diplo Roundtable Review.


“Masuda Hajimu has written a refreshing, provocative and extremely important book that has contributed not only to our understanding of the Korean War, not even just the Cold War, but the past as a subject of scholarly enquiry. By pushing beyond conventional boundaries, and integrating grass root narratives from many different countries, Masuda has made a big splash in crowded waters, and I congratulate him on this impressive feat.”

Sergey Radchenko (Cardiff University), H-Diplo Roundtable Review.


“It is undeniable that Masuda’s approach is innovative, original, and path breaking. Using broad, deft brushstrokes, Cold War Crucible repaints our understanding of the origins and meaning of the conflict. Based on extensive archival research in the United States, Great Britain, the People’s Republic of China, and Japan it is a work with an impressive global sweep that ties together the experiences of a diverse array of protagonists, discovering the agency of individuals and groups that had for far too long been overlooked. It skillfully interweaves social, political, and diplomatic history, highlighting the interrelatedness of international geopolitics with the transformation of everyday life. Moreover, many of the insights into how the Cold War came about speak to contemporary international politics—most especially the war against terror—in intriguing ways.”

Gregg Brazinsky (George Washington University), H-Diplo Roundtable Review.


“Cold War Crucible builds on both the traditional approach to diplomatic history and the so-called ‘cultural turn.’ Masuda unearths the roots of social change at the local level in several different societies to show how change impacted reactions to larger events and, in turn, influenced and was influenced by national political elites. An impressive book.”

William Stueck (University of Georgia), author of Rethinking the Korean War: A New Diplomatic and Strategic History


“After having long been consigned to regional specialists, Korea has been rebranded in Hajimu Masuda’s 2015 Cold War Crucible as the event that, in fact, made the Cold War happen. In squarely identifying Korea as the crucible—which triggered frenzy at home and dire prophecies abroad—Masuda’s history lesson restores the Korean War to the larger sweep of Cold War cultural studies.”

Josephine Nock-Hee Park (University of Pennsylvania), the author of Cold War Friendships: Korea, Vietnam, and Asian American Literature


Cold War Crucible is a wonderful blend of social and diplomatic history, as it moves beyond the circles of policymaking elites to show how ordinary people played a central role in shaping these critical early years of the Cold War. It is also a remarkable blend of local and global history, maintaining a focus on the international causes and impact of the Korean War without losing sight of the people who both shaped and experienced it locally. The research, conducted in archives in ten nations, is impressive; the methodological approach is sophisticated but clearly presented; and the narrative is graceful and engrossing. […]. Cold War Crucible is an important book and a major contribution to the growing literature that connects social and diplomatic history. Masuda has taken a number of important Cold War events usually studied in isolation and united them within a global framework that echoes the dictum of former speaker of the house Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill that all politics––even global politics––is indeed local.”

Mitchell Lerner, American Historical Review.


“Cold War Crucible is extraordinarily well researched, drawing on an impressive array of archival materials in many languages. Masuda skillfully weaves into his narrative diplomatic and government records as well as the letters of ordinary citizens addressed to US presidents and local Chinese Communist Party offices. Masuda conducted research in dozens of archives in multiple countries, including the United States, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, India, Singapore, Taiwan, and elsewhere. This is a most impressive achievement. […]. Cold War Crucible is a refreshingly innovative and thought-provoking study of a period about which so much has already been written.”

James F. Person, The Journal of Asian Studies

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“U.S. historians have long studied the Cold War’s constructed nature as a cynical specter affecting elite and ordinary citizens. However, exploring McCarthyism alongside similar political and social movements [across the world], Cold War Crucible stirs readers to reconsider the surprisingly interconnected nature of the United States and other nations’ postwar struggles. […]. Cold War Crucible is a tour de force of transnational research and analysis that manages to restore, in all its difficult complexity, the significance of ordinary human agency in some of the United States’ and the world’s grimmest and most politically punishing historical events.”

Kevin Y. Kim, The Journal of American History

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“In this impressively researched and elegantly written comparative work, Masuda describes the emergence of the Korean War—which helped construct Cold War political practice—not as an accepted political fact but as a process of local translation, as governments, politicians, activists, and ordinary people negotiated the volatile social dynamics of postwar and postcolonial societies. […]. Masuda positions his work against elite-driven and nation-based political histories of the Cold War and extends his political history into the realm of social and cultural history, a welcome approach that de-emphasizes US and Soviet concerns and reconnects the period to longer histories of colonialism and decolonization in East Asia.”

Jessie Kindig, American Quarterly

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“Masuda Hajimu’s Cold War Crucible provides a rare combination of clear writing, coherent argumentation, and impressive scholarship. It goes beyond a probing transnational analysis of the Korean War era to push the boundaries of diplomatic and military history in exciting new directions. […]. He believes—and demonstrates—that careful consideration of interlocking domestic and foreign, transnational, diplomatic, military, and cultural factors yields a far more nuanced assessment of how and why societies reacted to events like the Korean War as they did. All in all, the author’s methodological argument against over-specialization is well taken, if difficult to put into practice. Few historians can master the daunting array of material required for such a political- military-cultural analysis.”

Michael R. Dolski, Michigan War Studies Review

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“At the heart of Masuda’s argument is that individual people played a crucial role in building aggregate effects that constructed a Cold War ‘reality,’ and that the construct of the Cold War was therefore a product manufactured for diverse and parallel motives in the minds of people. […]. Cold War Crucible is a strong work with much to be celebrated. Masuda’s research draws on an impressive array of archival sources from throughout the United States, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, India, Singapore, and elsewhere. Although a book whose attention to a large number of countries during a specific timeframe could easily leave the reader bewildered, Masuda’s work is crisp and descriptive and his organization produces a sense of becoming well informed, armed with a mix of statistical evidence and individual study, rather than of being overwhelmed.”

Nicholas Sambaluk, H-Net Reviews

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“In broadest terms, Masuda aims to reverse the relationship between the discourse and reality of the Cold War. In other words, he argues that home-grown fantasies of this global conflict trans- formed it into a concrete, on-the-ground reality. This thesis is an important historiographical corrective insofar as it highlights the power of popular perceptions, rather than assuming the omnipotence of elite discourses and official policies.”

Todd A. Henry, Pacific Historical Review

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“Masuda Hajimu’s Cold War Crucible greatly enriches understanding of the Cold War. By examining the local manifestations of the Cold War in several societies on both sides of the Cold War, including the United States, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Britain, Taiwan and the Philippines, Masuda makes an important contribution to the expanding literature on the cultural history of the Cold War beyond the United States and Western Europe. […]. [M]ost provocative is a conclusion about local and individual agency in the cultural history of the Cold War. The heart of Masuda’s work is a study of how local actors appropriated Cold War rhetoric in their own local social and cultural struggles.”

Robert Hoppens, Journal of American-East Asian Relations

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“Masuda (National Univ. of Singapore) has written a fascinating intellectual study exploring the crossroads of social and diplomatic history by examining the social construction of the Cold War in the minds of ordinary citizens.”

Christos G. Frentzos, Choice Review

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“A major strength of this book is Masuda’s placement of the Korean War in a global context, setting it apart from most studies of the conflict. His account provides powerful insights on how local events guided the thoughts and behavior of common people around the world in reacting to the Cold War, rather than the other way around. Another obvious asset is its extraordinary research. Masuda has consulted not only archival collections in ten different nations, including the United States, Japan, China, and Britain, but also an enormous list of secondary works from authors in various countries.”

James Matray, New Global Studies

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“Contrary to the predominant notion of the Cold War as geopolitical and ideological struggle between the capitalist and communist states, Cold War Crucible depicts it as a social construct that local peoples consciously or unconsciously created from the bottom up. […]. Cold War Crucible is a welcome addition to the rich historiography on the origins of the Cold War, as well as the burgeoning literature on the role of popular perception in international relations. Using primary sources from sixty-four archives in ten countries and regions, Masuda offers a truly international history.”

Kazushi Minami, Not Even the Past

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“Masuda Hajimu at the National University of Singapore starts his revisionist study of Cold War Asia with a deceptively simple premise: the Cold War only existed because people believed it so. It was as much a consciousness as a conflict. From this constructivist starting point — the Cold War as a giant ‘imagined community’ — Masuda plunges into the domestic politics and cultural life of Japan, China and the United States, in order explain why each society bought into the idea of a global war for or against communism. […]. Such an ambitious, revisionist interpretation will require more research before gaining acceptance, but in opening up such lines of inquiry, Masuda has contributed significantly to how we think about the social history behind great power and global conflict.”

—John Delury, Global Asia

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“[Cold War Crucible] is a fine contribution to the growing subfield of what might be called ‘early Cold War social history’: scholarship which, by treating the late 1940s and early 1950s as a single period, decentres elite-centred Cold War narratives by bringing them into dialogue with grassroots experience, legacies of prior decades and the dynamics of intermediate zones which, like Asia, existed between the superpowers’ core territorial regions. […]. By sidelining political leaders and focusing instead on popular forces in the aggregate, Cold War Crucible suggests that the period’s historical reputation for social repression was both richly deserved and primarily attributable to local self-interest, prejudice and groupthink.”

Matthew D. Johnson, Asian Studies Review


“Masuda Hajimu, professor of history at the National University of Singapore, does a marvelous job in repainting the early Cold War world. […]. Revisiting key historiographical issues in the early Cold War world, Masuda convincingly presents alternative answers and successfully broadens our understanding of the era by deconstructing the simple Cold War framework and by wearing domestic and local lenses. His ‘international’ history is truly impressive. Beyond traditional diplomatic relations, his story shows interactions among the different societies and highlights domestic contexts in individual nations. […]. Cold War Crucible is a great addition and resounding contribution to the recent historiography of the Cold War.”

Kyung Deok Roh, The Journal of Northeast Asian History

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“Cold War Crucible is an ambitious book that covers numerous countries and attempts to untangle the complicated relationship between public attitudes and foreign policy. Masuda relies on an impressive collection of primary and secondary sources, including archival sources from nine different countries. While at times the narrative can be a bit fragmented, Masuda succeeds in reevaluating some of the common assumptions about the origins of the Cold War.”

Matthew Masur, Journal of World History

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Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World is an important book that shines a new lens on the Cold War and its origins. It shows how ordinary people were not passive actors but, to a great extent, were the initiators of the conflict. Moreover, by providing case studies of several different countries, it trespasses the thick borders of individual, nation- based social histories. In short, this well written book challenges many long-held views of the Cold War and provides a significant methodological contribution to the disciplines of political science and history.”

—Pedro Iacobelli D., International Social Science Review

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