Origins Of the Cold War


Let’s clear up what we mean by the Cold War. There were two main sides:

  • The USA and its allies (including Britain of course)
  • The USSR and its allies.

Most historians say it started soon after the end of World War 2 in 1945. The Cold War (from the late 1940s onwards) was not a ‘normal’ war like World War 2. Here are four key features of the Cold War:

  • A complete lack of trust between politicians on each side
  • Building up huge armed forces to threaten the other side (but not actually using them)
  • Using the media to criticise the actions of the other side
  • Co-operating with and supporting anyone who was an enemy of the other side (this extract is taken from the National Archives, Cold War Case Study).

How did the Second World War end?

Here is a day by day overview of the entire second world war:

Watch The Map as History:

For the impact of the DDay landings watch the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan.


Did the Cold War start in 1945?


The origins of the Cold War probably began in 1917 with the Russian Revolution.  However the traditional date of the start of the cold War is 1945.  What evidence is there that there was a Cold War even before 1945?
Use the link below to answer the question ‘Did the Cold War really start in 1919 – 1939?
Complete the task on this sheet: Origins of the Cold War Case Study worksheet

How Strong was the Wartime Alliance between Britain, the USA and the USSR 1941 – 1945?


Who was to blame for the start of the Cold War?


Ideological differences


Find out about the Origins of the Cold War by using the Design Cycle.
Design Cycle

Go to this page for the resources you will need:

Yalta and Potsdam 1945

The Soviet take over of Eastern Europe


Which countries of Europe became satellite states of the USSR?
How did the USSR spread it influence into Eastern Europe?
Was it a defensive measure or aggressive?

Churchill’s Fulton Speech

Watch the movie clip of Churchill making this speech in 1946.
Find out about Churchill’s iron curtain speech: why was he making it? what was the message? why is it so famous?
How could this speech be considered inflammatory and a cause of the Cold War?



What was the policy of Containment? The document below explains the policy including the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan:

The Berlin Blockade 1948 and airlift 1949

This is sometimes regarded as the first Crisis of the Cold War. Find out why it was considered a crisis and what happened during the blockade.

ATL Skills: Critical Thinking

Who was responsible for the start of the Cold War?

Cold War historical theories       Cold War historiography-who-was-responsible cold-war-Key Note: political-cartoons-  Who was to blame?

To answer this question brainstorm all the reasons why we can blame the USA and all the reasons why we can blame the USSR. Now look at the perspective of the Historians.

Plan an answer to this essay question:  To what extent was it the breakdown in relations between the allies at the end of World War 2 that was responsible for the start of the Cold War?

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