John Lewis Gaddis

Photo by U.S. Naval War College | cropped

“an epic work—probing, engrossing, occasionally revelatory—but also a well-timed one” – The New York Times 

 “bids fair to be as close to the final word as possible on one of the most important, complex, moving, challenging and exasperating American public servants” – Henry Kissinger

 “a rare example of a diplomat who changed history through the power of his ideas and the clarity of his writing” – The Financial Times

Born in Southern Texas on the 2nd of April 1941, John Lewis Gaddis is an American historian and renowned scholar of the Cold War. Gaddis is also the official biographer of the seminal 20th-century American statesman George F. Kennan. George F. Kennan: An American Life, his biography of Kennan, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

Graduating with a PhD in History in 1968, he joined the Ohio University as an assistant professor. His career has included teaching at Princeton, Yale and Oxford Universities as well as the Naval War college, and writing numerous books and historical studies specialising in the Cold War. His great interest lies in how history affects current events and the process by which current events become history.

An occasional advisor to former president George W Bush, Gaddis has made a name for himself in USA academic and policy circles. In the 70’s he founded and directed the Contemporary History Institute in Ohio. Over the years he has been Visiting Professor to many Universities and Colleges and sees his university work as especially important and loves to see his students’ interest spark in his topic of interest.

Gaddis received a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2012 for his official biography on the American Cold War figure George Kennan: George F. Kenna: An American Life. The story of an American diplomat whose writings in the late 1940s helped define the strategies of US policy toward the Soviet Union for the next 40 years and who has been named as the most influential American diplomats in the Cold War era. As well as the Pulitzer, Gaddis has received numerous awards including two for undergraduate teaching at Yale as well as the National Humanities Medal. He has been hailed as the “Dean of Cold War Historians” by the New York Times.

In his earlier works Gaddis maintained that the United States and the Soviet Union were both equally responsible for starting the Cold War. However, he revised this view in the late 1990s when the Soviet, Chinese and East European archives became available, and he wrote We now know: Rethinking Cold Ward History where he declared that the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin played a greater role in instigating the Cold War. In this he argued that it was the personality and role in history of the Stalin that constituted one of the most important causes of the Cold War.

One of his most famous works is the highly influential Strategies of Containment (1982; rev. 2005), which analyses in detail the theory and practice of containment that was employed against the Soviet Union by Cold War American presidents.

George F. Kennan: An American Life


Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Biography

Widely and enthusiastically acclaimed, this is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation’s leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan—then a bright but, relatively obscure American diplomat—wrote the “long telegram” and the “X” article. These two documents laid out United States’ strategy for “containing” the Soviet Union—a strategy which Kennan himself questioned in later years. Based on exclusive access to Kennan and his archives, this landmark history illuminates a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.

Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War


When Strategies of Containment was first published, the Soviet Union was still a superpower, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, and the Berlin Wall was still standing. This updated edition of Gaddis’ classic carries the history of containment through the end of the Cold War. Beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s postwar plans, Gaddis provides a thorough critical analysis of George F. Kennan’s original strategy of containment, NSC 68, The Eisenhower Dulles “New Look,” the Kennedy Johnson “flexible response” strategy, the Nixon Kissinger strategy of detente, and now a comprehensive assessment of how Reagan and Gorbechev completed the process of containment, thereby bringing the Cold War to an end.

He concludes, provocatively, that Reagan more effectively than any other Cold War president drew upon the strengths of both approaches while avoiding their weaknesses. A must read for anyone interested in Cold War history, grand strategy, and the origins of the post Cold War world. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program where Amazon will pay us a commission for linking to products on and affiliated sites.