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Tension in the Post-War World
Guide: Beginnings of the Cold War

This collection of resources explores the development of the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. Events and concepts key to this rivalry including communism, containment policy, the Marshall Plan, and nuclear deterrence are covered through primary and secondary sources. Use the Export to My Lists button above to turn this into a research list for your students.

Time Period Key Understandings

  • The struggle for political power can motivate nationalist response among the citizenry
  • Contrasting influences of communism and democracy can lead to difficult and fragmented transitions in political states
  • Geographic containment does not mean ideological containment
  • Ideological wars do not have physical endings
  • The legacies of political leadership and social policy cannot be erased
  • Weapons of mass destruction increase the impact and importance of political policy
  • Nationalism can motivate both national unity and domestic terrorism
  • The global focus on human rights influenced political regimes and economic structures

Key Questions

  • How does a "cold war" differ from a conventional war? Why did the superpowers work to avoid open warfare during the Cold War?
  • What kinds of tensions existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War? In what ways was the Cold War a legacy of World War II?
  • What role did the Marshall Plan play after World War II? How did it affect power dynamics between the West and the Soviet Union?
  • How was the Korean War tied to the ideological conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union?
  • How did the development of the hydrogen bomb affect the course of the Cold War?


  1. Overview: Beginnings of the Cold War
  2. Visuals: The Iron Curtain (Visual)
  3. Outline: Outline
  4. Transcript: Transcript
  5. Lesson: Introduction
  6. Lesson: 1-Failure of World War II Alliances
  7. Lesson: 2-Containment and the Truman Doctrine
  8. Lesson: 3-The Marshall Plan
  9. Lesson: 4-Chinese Communist Revolution
  10. Lesson: 5-The Korean War
  11. Lesson: Closing
  12. Glossary Terms: containment policy
  13. Photos & Illustrations: Atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll
  14. Photos & Illustrations: Berlin airlift
  15. Reference Articles: Korean War
  16. Reference Articles: Yalta Conference
  17. Reference Articles: Cold War
  18. Reference Articles: Nuclear Weapons
  19. Political Cartoons, Posters & Document Images: Stalin, Josef: Marshall Plan cartoon
  20. Political, Government & Court Documents: Marshall Plan (1947)
  21. Newspapers & Magazines: Stalin, Joseph: interview on Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech (1946)

MLA Citation

"Beginnings of the Cold War." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2020, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2156863?cid=256. Accessed 21 Jan. 2020.

Entry ID: 2156863

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