Public Relations of the Cold War

1 December 2011 - 3 December 2011

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, and Mill Lane Lecture Room 9, Cambridge.


Hannah Higgin (University of Cambridge)

Mark Miller (University of Cambridge)

Martin Albers (University of Cambridge)

Zhong Zhong Chen (LSE)


The conference seeks to examine the 'selling' of Cold War-motivated policies to national audiences during the second half of the twentieth century. At its core, the Cold War was a global ideological conflict, pitting two uncompromising and often messianic systems against one another, systems which both rejected traditional European imperialism and which claimed to provide the ultimate solution to problems of global instability and human inequality.

However, stemming from dual foundations of 'making the world safe for democracy' on one hand and the Marxist theory of false consciousness on the other, ideological diversions appeared on both sides of the Cold War divide in order to confront changing international climates and maintain the respective 'Grand Strategies' of global transformation in line with each side's chosen systems of government and society.

When faced with complicated issues, such as internment, foreign intervention or more general limits to human rights, the decisions were often inconsistent with previous proclamations and in stark contrast to the guiding principles of the system. In these instances (for example, the support for a dictator like Pinochet or the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia) justifications for questionable actions were created and corresponding discussions held to decide which decisions could be made public and which must remain classified. By examining these controversial issues, one can not only understand how official policy was transmitted through the mass media, but also dissect the relationship between political ideology and the larger issue of Grand Strategy.

While growing attention is paid to the public diplomacy of the Cold War, less attention is paid specifically to how governments sold policies to their own domestic public.  This conference aims to stimulate innovative and interdisciplinary thinking and dialogue on this topic and to reach out to new networks of interest and new publics.


Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge and the International History Department  at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance: Helga Brandt (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)


1 December

Mill Lane Lecture Room 9

9.30 - 10.00


10.00 - 10.30

Opening address: Mark Miller and Hannah Higgin

10.30 - 12.00

Panel 1: Sports and Culture
Chair: Hannah Higgin

  • Umberto Tulli (University of Bologna): Selling the Olympic Boycott. The Carter Administration, the American Public and the Decision to Boycott the Moscow Olympic Games
  • Tim Crook (Goldsmiths, University of London): George Orwell - Cold War Radio Warrior?
  • Christos Lynteris (CRASSH): ‘Revolutionary scalpels’: Sino-Soviet conflict and the battle over socialist medicine in the People’s Republic of China

12.00 - 13.00

Lunch (CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane)

13.00 - 15.00

Panel 2: Selling extra-European intervention
Chair: Chen Zhong Zhong

  • Simon Toner (LSE): 'What is it that we have to sell?': Sir Robert Thompson, Richard Nixon and Vietnamization, 1969-1973
  • Steven Casey (LSE): The U.S. Military & Cold War Public Relations: The Reporting of Combat Casualties during the Korean and Vietnam Wars
  • Cindy L May (University of Cambridge):  Selling Intervention During the Cold War: The Iran Hostage Crisis (1979) and the Bombing of Libya (1986)

15.00 - 15.30 

Coffee/Tea (CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane)

15.30 - 17.00

Panel 3:  PR  under Communism
Chair: Mark Miller

  • Yi Guolin (Wayne State University): Turning the Enemy into Your Friend: the Chinese Preparation for Rapprochement with the United States
  • Václav Šmidrkal (Prague University): Sealed off from the West: Public Relations of the Czechoslovak Border Policy (1948–1989)
  • Martin Deuerlein (University of Tübingen): 'On the Events in Afghanistan': Strategies to justify the invasion of Afghanistan to the Soviet public, 1979-1989


2 December

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane

10.00 - 11.30

Keynote: Odd Arne Westad (LSE)
Introduction: Martin Albers

11.30 - 11.45


11.45 - 13.15

Panel 4: The Empire in crisis? Britain in the Cold War
Chair: Sarah Snyder

  • Scott Anthony (University of Cambridge): 'Tate not state': The Aims of Industry and 'British' public relations in the cold war
  • Christian Schlaepfer (University of Cambridge): Labour and the Communist threat: the purge of the British civil service after WWII
  • Rouven Kunstmann (University of Oxford): Cold War Images and the Imperial Press –  African Responses to Colonial Policy in West Africa, c.1947 to 1958

13.15 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30 

Panel 5: Taking sides: Cold War PR in Western Europe
Chair: Kristina Spohr-Readman

  • Sören Philipps (University of Hanover): 'Reptile Fund' and 'Working Committee of Democratic Circles' (AdK)1. How Adenauer 'sold' West German Rearmament to pacifist German public
  • Marianne Rostgaard (Aalborg University): David against Goliath and other stories of how Denmark disciplined the US and outsmarted the USSR during the early years of the cold war
  • Sandra Bott and Janick Schaufelbuehl (University of Lausanne): Taking sides while claiming neutrality: The Swiss Government’s Cold War discourse

15.30 - 15.45


15.45 - 17.00

Keynote: Christopher Andrew (University of Cambridge)
Introduction: Martin Albers


3 December

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane

10.30 - 12.30

Panel 6: Defense, intelligence and the use of PR
Chair: David Reynolds

  • Jerry Lembcke (College of the Holy Cross): 'Spat-on Veterans and "Hanoi Jane"': Lost-war Betrayal Themes from Vietnam in American Political Culture Today
  • Giles Scott-Smith (Leiden University): The Challenge of Coexistence: The West European Intelligence Services, Anti-Communism, and Interdoc
  • Steven Treible (LSE): Selling Operation Linebacker II: Failure on the Home Front

12.30 - 13.30 


13.30 - 15.00 

Panel 7:  Cold War and the search for an American identity
Chair: Andrew Preston

  • Tim Borstelmann (University of Nebraska-Lincoln): From Hierarchical Conservatism to Egalitarian Liberalism: The Cold War and the Struggle for American Identity
  • Kenneth Osgood (Colorado School of Mines): The Crusade for Freedom and the Selling of the Cold War: Advertising, Intelligence, and the Making of the Cold War Consensus in the United States
  • David Greenberg (Rutgers University): The Propaganda Myth: American Anxieties about Political Persuasion During the Cold War

15.00 - 15.30 



Closing remark: Martin Albers and Chen Zhong Zhon