preload preload preload preload

The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy 1945-1989 Cambridge University Press Nicholas J. Cull


11th January 2013 History Books 4 Comments

Published at a time when the U.S. government’s public diplomacy is 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 radio 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.

“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, Harvard, and author of The Powers to Lead

“Although U.S. 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 U.S. public diplomacy. It is a masterwork, meticulously researched and engagingly written, and should be required reading for anyone who cares about U.S. foreign policy.”
-Kristin M. Lord Associate Dean, Elliot School of International Relations, The George Washington University

“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

“This work by Cull (public diplomacy, U. of Southern California) is a Cold War history of the United States Information Agency, privileging the high politics of public diplomacy and political appointees over the work of career veterans in the bureaucracy and in the field.” -Reference & Research Book News

“Nicholas Cull…has written a well-researched, comprehensive book on the history of the US Information Agency (USIA). It is the first, and so far only, work that relies heavily on documentary sources rather than the personal recollections of a former USIA officer. It is unique, and scholars as well as practitioners of public diplomacy will want to read this insightful and well-written book….” -Walter R. Roberts, Mediterranean Quarterly

“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

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

“Highly recommended.” -Choice

“Cull’s prodigious research, clear writing, and sweeping scope are quite impressive.” -Laura A. Belmonte, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“…a volume crammed with local color and colorful characters that moves along at a jaunty clip. For readers seeking a compendious account of the USIA’s fitful rise and precipitous demise this study will provide invaluable: a definitive institutional history, exhaustive in its coverage of bureaucratic maneuverings, missions espoused, and mandates reversed.” -Susan L. Carruthers, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“This is an authoritative study. The research that went into it bumps the needle up to somewhere between ‘thorough’ and ‘extreme.’” -Richard Freid, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“…Cull offers an insightful conclusion to his work, summarizing not only the successes and failures of the USIA but also drawing interesting and sometimes controversial conclusions of his own about the future of public diplomacy in America’s foreign relations.” -Michael L. Krenn, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“Nicholas Cull’s magisterial history of the USIA is…a sorely needed account that fills a colossal gap in the historical literature. Scholars all too casually use the word ‘prodigious’ to describe the research of books they review, but Cull’s book truly matches this description.” -Kenneth Osgood, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

Published at a time when the U.S. government’s public diplomacy is 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 the world through information, broadcasting, culture and exchanges, became an essential element of American foreign policy during the Cold War.

“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, Harvard, and author of The Powers to Lead

“Although U.S. 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 U.S. public diplomacy. It is a masterwork, meticulously researched and engagingly written, and should be required reading for anyone who cares about U.S. foreign policy.”
-Kristin M. Lord Associate Dean, Elliot School of International Relations, The George Washington University

“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

“This work by Cull is a Cold War history of the United States Information Agency, privileging the high politics of public diplomacy and political appointees over the work of career veterans in the bureaucracy and in the field.” -Reference & Research Book News

“Nicholas Cull…has written a well-researched, comprehensive book on the history of the US Information Agency . It is the first, and so far only, work that relies heavily on documentary sources rather than the personal recollections of a former USIA officer. It is unique, and scholars as well as practitioners of public diplomacy will want to read this insightful and well-written book….” -Walter R. Roberts, Mediterranean Quarterly

“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

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

“Highly recommended.” -Choice

“Cull’s prodigious research, clear writing, and sweeping scope are quite impressive.” -Laura A. Belmonte, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“…a volume crammed with local color and colorful characters that moves along at a jaunty clip. For readers seeking a compendious account of the USIA’s fitful rise and precipitous demise this study will provide invaluable: a definitive institutional history, exhaustive in its coverage of bureaucratic maneuverings, missions espoused, and mandates reversed.” -Susan L. Carruthers, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“This is an authoritative study. The research that went into it bumps the needle up to somewhere between ‘thorough’ and ‘extreme.’” -Richard Freid, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“…Cull offers an insightful conclusion to his work, summarizing not only the successes and failures of the USIA but also drawing interesting and sometimes controversial conclusions of his own about the future of public diplomacy in America’s foreign relations.” -Michael L. Krenn, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

“Nicholas Cull’s magisterial history of the USIA is…a sorely needed account that fills a colossal gap in the historical literature. Scholars all too casually use the word ‘prodigious’ to describe the research of books they review, but Cull’s book truly matches this description.” -Kenneth Osgood, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (Cambridge Studies in the Histo)










  • 4 responses to "The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy 1945-1989 Cambridge University Press Nicholas J. Cull"

  • pradeep
    5:53 on January 11th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Many of today’s baby boomers grew up in the 1950′s and recall President Eisenhower as an avuncular man typified by such snappy slogans as “I like Ike.” What many of them did not know was that Ike was an active propagandist trying to win the hearts and minds of citizens not only behind the Iron Curtain, but also at home, in friendly nations, and everywhere else on the planet, taking advantage of new and ever more expansive and rapid communications technologies.

    Prof. Osgood has written a penetrating history of Ike’s propaganda campaigns, documenting how in a war of ideology, communications was often a more potent weapon than guns and bombs. With campaigns lauding not only the American good life, but also the American space and arms races, Eisenhower and his new Cold Warriors fought in an international arena of public opinion which they used to leverage negotiations to their advantage at home and abroad.

    That governments and the powerful have always sought to shape public opinion is no surprise, and it should also be no surprise that Eisenhower, believing that the future of the free world was in the balance, fully utilized the tools of communications and propaganda to his own ends. Prof. Osgood’s book reminds us that propaganda comes in many form and guises, and even when we try to justify the means of propaganda by the ends of freedom, truly free people must never accept any speech, especially by governments, at face value.

  • Mister Grady
    10:52 on January 11th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    A good review of what was done in the ’50′s to defeat the Soviets and a harbinger of what should be done to defeat current threats. Any serious student of counter-terrorism should read this.

  • Suzan
    7:55 on January 12th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    In the early 1980s, with the publication of Fred I. Greenstein’s book, “The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader,” a reappraisal of Ike’s presidency began. This new work by Kenneth Osgood makes a critically important contribution to the brutal historiography of Eisenhower revisionism. It suggests that Eisenhower was much more than a smiling, golf playing figurehead, and instead understood well the stakes and the possibilities of cold war with the Soviet Union. Most important, he waged an aggressive psychological battle for hearts and minds worldwide; one that overall proved quite successful. Based on extensive documentary materials only recently declassified, this work marks a new path in Eisenhower studies. It is a major contribution to the field.

  • Crizza Reyes
    19:34 on January 12th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Having been raised primarily towards the end of the Cold War, and as an officer in the military, I actually read this as a primer for how to counter the contemporary terrorist/ radical Islam narrative. Fascinating read.

  • Leave a Reply

    * Required
    ** Your Email is never shared