Introduction: Old barriers, new openings
European Integration and the Atlantic Community in the 1980s
Cambridge University Press
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The inspiration for this collection is straightforward. “Study problems, not periods,” Lord Acton advised; yet the 1980s – whether or not these years mark a distinct period – pose a significant problem for contemporary historians because of the rapidity of so many momentous changes in the world. The history of these years has only just begun to be examined, and for many scholars, it centers on a return to the high politics of the Cold War: the years between 1979 and 1989 saw a heightening of military tension between the superpowers, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the reinvigoration of conflicts across Latin America and Africa, reaching its worst point around 1983. This was followed by so dramatic a reduction in hostilities that contemporaries would declare the Cold War over by the end of the decade. The effects of this change were particularly dramatic in and for Europe. Indeed, 1989 has entered the canon of international history with dates such as 1648, 1815, and 1914 as one of Europe’s major turning points. Germany would soon be reunified, the Soviet Union dismantled, and Europe, in U.S. president George H. W. Bush’s popular phrase, could become “whole and free.” This narrative, tilted heavily toward the very end of the decade, has overlooked or underplayed nearly every other event from the onset of détente in the 1970s to the wars of Yugoslav succession. © Cambridge University Press 2013.