|Between Long Peaces and Cold Wars. The Historiography of John Lewis Gaddis|
|John Lewis Gaddis is probably the most renown U.S. diplomatic historians. His many works – from The United States and the Origins of the Cold War (1971) to The Cold War: a New History (2005) – have stimulated rich debates and catalyzed broad scholarly discussion. His crystal-clear, though not always elegant, prose has made Gaddis’s books immensely popular among teachers and students alike. His propensity to engage in a fertile dialogue with other disciplines, particularly IR, has allowed Gaddis to fill his work with comprehensive and sophisticated concepts and categories, and has contributed to liberate US diplomatic history from an often empiricist, rigid and conservative approach.
The paper will discuss the evolution of Gaddis’s historiography, dividing it into three different phases: the early one, based upon the assumption that domestic factors played a key role in shaping US foreign policy and strategy (the domestic/bureaucratic paradigm); the middle one, when Gaddis tried to apply IR neorealist models to the study of the Cold War (the national security paradigm); the third and last one, when Gaddis moved away from his allegedly value-free and neutral national security model, to a neo-traditionalist and triumphalist approach where the dialogue with neo-realism was abandoned in favour of that with democratic-peace theories (the ideological paradigm).
The paper will put forward three main arguments: a) that Gaddis’s trajectory from post-revisionism to neo-orthodoxy is emblematic of a more general trend of Cold War historiography and discourse, and of its resonance in US public discourse; b) That Gaddis’s methodological, historiographical and interpretative twists bear witness to the influence the Cold War itself exercised (and continue to exercise) on contemporary historical scholarship: one could plausibly argue that in many ways Gaddis was frequently more a scholar in the Cold War than a scholar of the Cold War; c) Finally, Gaddis’s work proves once more the resilience among US diplomatic historians of exceptionalist and nationalist narratives of the history of the United States and of its behaviour in the international system