In the moments before his weekly radio address hit the airwaves in 1984, Ronald Reagan made an off-the-record joke: “I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." As reports of the stunt leaked to the press, many Americans did not find themselves laughing along with the president. Long a fervent warrior against what he termed the “Evil Empire," by the mid-1980s, Reagan confronted growing domestic opposition to his revival of the Cold War. While numerous histories of the era have glorified the “Decade of Greed," historian Andrew Hunt instead explores the period's robust political and cultural dissent.
We Begin Bombing in Five Minutes focuses on a striking array of protest movements that took up issues such as the nuclear arms race, U.S. intervention in Central America, and American investments in South Africa. Hunt's new history of the eighties investigates how film, television, and other facets of popular culture critiqued Washington's Cold War policies and reveals that activists and cultural rebels alike posed a more meaningful challenge to the Cold War's excesses than their predecessors in the McCarthy era.
ANDREW HUNT is professor of history at the University of Waterloo and coauthor of Social History of the United States: The 1980s.
"This volume builds on the scholarship of the early Cold War, which pioneered the use of popular culture as a way to understand challenges to the Cold War consensus. It is an essential bookend to the history of this dynamic period."—CHOICE
"Alternative cultural histories of the Reagan era can be counted on one hand. Hunt presents an important counterbalance to the 'triumphalist' school that misrepresents the decade."—William Knoblauch, author of Nuclear Freeze in a Cold War: The Reagan Administration, Cultural Activism, and the End of the Arms Race
"An excellent contribution to the small but growing scholarly literature on the cultural and political opposition to Reagan and conservatism in the 1980s. The Cold War lens that Hunt brings to his narrative represents a unique innovation in this emerging scholarship."—Bradford Martin, author of The Other Eighties: A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan
Selected as a 2022 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
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