GCSE Cold War

Edexcel GCSE

History A – 2HA01

Unit 1 – Peace and War: International Relations 1900-91

There are 6 sections for the unit above but we will only be studying the last 3. These will make up an analysis of the Cold War. The first section deals with the causes and a key event in the escalation of the conflict. The other two deal with the major events which worsen the war or lead to it ending.

A very useful page with all the Cold War summits.
A Year 9 revision podcast introducing the Cold War

International Relations 1919-1939.

Section 4 – How did the Cold War develop? 1943-56

Grand Alliance Wikipedia page.

Axis Powers Wikipedia entry.

Teheran Conference From spartacus.schoolnet.

Origins of the Cold War revision podcast

Below is the infamous Billy Joel song about the Cold War.


Section 5 – Three Cold War crises: Berlin, Cuba and Czechoslovakia c1957-69

Section 6 – Why did the Cold War end? The invasion of Afghanistan, (1979), to the collapse of the Soviet Union, (1991).

There are resources available for each section on this page. However, the first section gives you general information about the Cold War as a whole. Timelines are a good resource to develop judgments on the Cold War. There are also revision materials available although they can be used to introduce yourself to topics.

A timeline of the Cold War.

An American student produced the clip above. It will help your revision although you should try to think of which key events are missing.

How many of the images can you recognise and do you know what they all represent?

An excellent site for the Cold War in Europe.


a different page for the Cold War outside Europe.

Section 4 – How did the Cold War develop? 1943-56

Causes of the Cold War from John D. Clare.

Excellent analysis of the causes. Helpful as they are divided into groups.

From the History Learning site…bias at all?

A series of bullet points which are useful to make revision notes.

Clip of President Truman announcing the Truman Doctrine.

A clip analysing Yalta and Potsdam.

Short clip explaining the origins of the Cold War.

Obviously done for IB for useful for GCSE nevertheless.

The dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. The aircraft which dropped it was called Enola Gay, which is the name of the track in the background.

The clip below is analysing the different interpretations of the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Billy Joel’s song about the Cold War. Can you recognise some of the people or events?

And just for those with a weird sense of humour…you know who you are! This is a clip concentrating on the causes;

A clip for IB history about the causes of the Cold War. The remainder of the series is below.


When asked about Hungary, Berlin and Czechoslovakia, the general theme of questions is to explain how the Soviets established their control? To what extent was force used and does it indicate that the Soviets had more or less power? Students can become confused in the past between Hungary and Czechoslovakia so pay particular attention to them. Berlin is much easier to remember.

The Hungarian Uprising from Spartacus.schoolnet.

Evil Russians! A piece of American propaganda below.

The Hungarian Uprising from the BBC.

A more accurate account of the Uprising.

Section 5 – Three Cold War crises: Berlin, Cuba and Czechoslovakia c1957-69

Berlin Wall

The clip above gives some interesting facts about the Berlin Wall and then proceeds to show footage of some of the events in its history. The background music is the ‘Winds of Change’. This song symbolises the end of the Cold War. The details of it are given in the Wikipedia page below.

Winds of Change

The Berlin Wall from John D. Clare.

An explanation of the Berlin Wall and a number of sources available. From the Learning Curve.

A clip from the BBC/ CNN series on the Cold War.

Cuban Missile Crisis

How accurate do you think the clip above is? Very creative and thanks to the creators.

A summary of the Cuban Missile Crisis from Thinkquest.

A Cuban Missile Crisis revision podcast

A detailed site which is hardly surprising given the title.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a pivotal event in the Cold War. It was perhaps the closest the world came to a Third World War. Questions on this events can be either to simply explain what happened or to explain the consequences. Was it a coincidence that a thawing of tensions occurred after the crisis? The address by Kennedy above ultimately increased his popularity but what of Khrushchev? For those of you who prefer to watch movies to gain an insight into history, Kevin Costner’s ‘Thirteen Days’ is advisable.

Prague Spring

Prague Spring from Spartacus.schoolnet.

A site devoted to Prague Spring.

A revision podcast for Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Section 6 – Why did the Cold War end? The invasion of Afghanistan, (1979), to the collapse of the Soviet Union, (1991).


To what extent was there a period of detente? There was apparently a thawing of the hostility between the two superpowers but the arms race continued and parts of the world still felt the pressure of the Cold War.

Detente from the History Learning Site.

A quiz on School History.

A good summary of the Detente period from School History.

Detente from the BBC.

Students may also be asked a question of how detente ended? The Iran hostage crisis and the invasion of Afghanistan are the two events which can be argued to have ended detente. The clip below is of Iran…History Rocks!

The clip below is the first part of a CNN documentary on the invasion of Afghanistan. You can find the rest on YouTube…where else? Alternatively you can watch Charlie Wilson’s War, (the trailer is below), which is a superb movie about the US reaction to the invasion. Rambo III is also about Afghanistan but I would give that one a miss.

SALT 2 is explained very well in the clip below.

What does the following website tell you about the Detente period?

The various treaties from ‘Reachingcriticalwill’.

Reagan and Gorbachev

I generally set an essay asking which of the two leaders were more influential in ending the Cold War. It is an effective way to remember facts and develop arguments when sometimes they aren’t any. Gorbachev won a Nobel Peace Prize but Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative which may have backed the USSR into a corner. The following articles and clips hopefully will help students develop their own arguments.

So to the most important…how accurate is Frankie goes to Hollywood?

You can argue that one leader did more than the other to end the Cold War but it must be remembered that they were both trying to win it. The clip above is making a mockery of the Cold War but as a historian, it does give you a sense of how some people felt about world issues. It reached number one in the UK where it stayed for 9 weeks. It did not get anywhere near this in the US. Possible because Reagan was popular and Americans did not want to see their leader portrayed in this way?

Strategic Defense Review

An article from The Space Review on SDI.

The announcement of SDI from the BBC.

‘Tear Down this Wall’ speech


How is Mikhail Gorbachev remembered in Russia? This clip may give you an idea.

Questions on Mikhail Gorbachev generally ask what his role was in the ending of the Cold War or whether he had a greater role than Reagan? ‘Gorby’, as he became known in the Western press, was a communist but saw problems in the Soviet Union which needed addressing. He introduced a number of policy changes which helped solve some of these problems, and in doing so helped end the Cold War. The following links are all required to answer one of the questions above.

Perestroika from the History Guide.

Glasnost from History Orb.

An interview with Gorbachev where he explains Perestroika, Glasnost and arms agreements.

A British newspaper commenting upon Gorbachev and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Useful Cold War article on the end of the conflict.

YouTube has extensive resources on the Cold War, especially on the 1980’s period. The CNN series has episodes on SDI, Afghanistan and the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are too detailed for GCSE but do give an understanding of the reasons why the USSR struggled in the 1980’s. When analysing Gorbachev’s role in the ending of the Cold War, you could consider what the alternative was? Andropov and Chernenko did not have the same ideas despite being General Secretaries themselves.

End of the Cold War

The BBC and the end of the Cold War.

Moments in history – the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Collapse of Communism revision podcast


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s