Dr. Ken Atkinson, (On-line) 8:00-8:50 MWF
**3 credit hour seminar – Requires sophomore standing
Course Description: The Cold War (1947-1991) was not merely a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, but it was a period that continues to shape the present. The story of the Cold War is reminiscent of a Shakespearean drama as the U.S. and the Soviet Union abandoned their World War II alliance to become foes, and forced countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and the Middle East to choose sides. The choices these countries made during the Cold War still shapes the economies, political regimes, ethnic conflicts, and environmental threats of these regions. The Cold War is most famous as a war for information in which Americans and Soviets sought intelligence largely though spies to keep abreast of the political and military activities of their adversaries. The city of Berlin, at that time divided into eastern and western halves by the infamous Berlin Wall and its death strip, was the epicenter of the Cold War conflict, and dubbed the world center for espionage. This city’s history spans the entire period of the Cold War, and the removal of the Berlin Wall led to the beginning of our present post-Cold War era.
This course introduces students to the Cold War, focusing on its political, military, social, and cultural history. It also explores the confrontation between capitalism and communism. In this class we will ask why the Soviets did not foresee the collapse of their society, but why they were surprised when it did. We will also explore the concept of nationalism during the Cold War and how it shapes our present world. We also investigate the important role that spies and espionage played in the Cold War. Commonly viewed as a lengthy time of peace, this class will reveal that the Cold War, along with World Wars I and II, was among the greatest conflicts of the twentieth century. We will also examine the legacy of Cold War arms race by exploring what newly released documents tell us about the nuclear meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor and how it affects us today. We will not only learn about this fascinating historical period through primary sources, but also through visual media including important films both about and from the Cold War. Students will have ample opportunity to discuss a variety of primary and secondary sources that document this unique historical period.
Professor Biography: Kenneth Atkinson is a Professor of History at UNI, where he teaches courses in the history, literature, religions, and archaeology of the ancient and modern Middle East. He began his career as a factory worker in Metropolitan Detroit, spent 2 ½ years as a full-time international traveler, and worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East and Europe. During the Cold War, he served as a solider with the U.S. Army’s Berlin Brigade, the only military unit stationed in Communist territory. His job included transporting secret documents for the military and U.S. government through the Berlin Wall, across the former East Germany and Soviet zones of occupation, and beyond the Iron Curtain to the former West Germany. During his time in Berlin, Atkinson regularly interacted with spies, was frequently followed at night while transporting secret documents, and was exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor disaster. In 2018, he was one of ten veterans honored in Berlin by the German government for their work during the Cold War, a trip covered by UNI and Iowa Public Radio. Atkinson is the author of numerous books and frequently speaks at professional conferences in the Middle East and Europe. He is also a member of the Berlin U.S. Military Veterans Association.