CPD University Fellow Nick Cull Pens New Book on Cold War Public Diplomacy

CPD University fellow Nick Cull's most recent book The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 has been praised as "the definitive history of US public diplomacy" by Kristen M. Lord, Foreign Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Cull hopes that his “book will fill in some of the blanks in the history of U.S. public diplomacy and help prevent the repetition of some of the mistakes of the past.” He continues, “my research shows that public diplomacy is a crucial element of foreign policy, but America’s approach has been consistently flawed by in-fighting, a lack of connection to policymaking and a marked aversion to listening.”

The Cold War explores the history and effectiveness of American “soft power” in dealings with foreign nations from the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War and provides a comprehensive survey of American propaganda and its effects and lessons.

Basing his approach on more than a hundred interviews and scores of newly declassified documents, Cull details the need for a new, concerted effort in the field of public diplomacy if the United States is to be a continuing player on the international diplomatic stage.

"At a time when public diplomacy is more important than ever before, Nick Cull has provided a comprehensive examination that should be of great value to professionals, scholars, and concerned citizens. Thoroughly researched and clearly organized, the book illuminates the evolution of public diplomacy in the United States during the Cold War, highlights successes and failures, and suggests lessons for the future." -Melvyn P. Leffler, Stettinius Professor of American History, University of Virginia

"American soft power has recently been in decline, yet we used public diplomacy as a key instrument of soft power during the Cold War decades. This important book tells the story of how we did it, and what we need to do it again." - Joseph S. Nye, Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor, Kennedy School of Government

"Although U.S. capabilities in public diplomacy have withered over the past decade, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency suggests the importance of examining the lessons that might be learned from earlier successes and failures of 'soft power.' Drawing on prodigious archival research and engagingly written, Cull presents the first comprehensive history and assessment of the varied elements that comprised the USIA's mission to tell "America's story to the world." He consistently weaves insightful analysis into an engrossing and timely narrative." -Emily S. Rosenberg, University of California, Irvine

From Cambridge University Press:

Published at a time when the U.S. government’s public diplomacy is in crisis, this book provides an exhaustive account of how it used to be done. The United States Information Agency was created in 1953 to “tell America’s story to the world” and, by engaging with the world through international information, broadcasting, culture and exchange programs, became an essential element of American foreign policy during the Cold War. Based on newly declassified archives and more than 100 interviews with veterans of public diplomacy, from the Truman administration to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nicholas J. Cull relates both the achievements and the endemic flaws of American public diplomacy in this period. Major topics include the process by which the Truman and Eisenhower administrations built a massive overseas propaganda operation; the struggle of the Voice of America radio to base its output on journalistic truth; the challenge of presenting Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and Watergate to the world; and the climactic confrontation with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. This study offers remarkable and new insights into the Cold War era.


From The Wall Street Journal:



Nicholas Cull's comprehensive history of USIA begins by clarifying what is meant by "public diplomacy." This is a great service, because since 9/11 every committee, think tank, advisory board and broom closet in Washington has published a report on the topic, and while some are less eye-glazing than others, none cuts through the semantic muddle as deftly as Mr. Cull.

To read the book review, click here.


From MountainRunner Public Diplomacy Blog:




There’s a new book on the block that is required reading for anybody seriously interested in the relationship between information activities, cultural and educational exchanges, advocacy, and Congressional and executive branch bureaucracies. This book is Dr. Nick Cull’s The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989.

To read the book review, click here.


For the USC Annenberg press release, click here

For the USC announcement, click here.



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