When Superpowers Collide: Investigating the Origins of the Cold War

Flags of the United States and Soviet Union.

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The concept of the Cold War conjures thoughts of political tensions, fear of communism, and even classic spy movies. But what is the real story behind the Cold War’s origin, and the development of the bitter rivalry between the world’s two leading superpowers, the United States and Soviet Union?  

Many students are familiar with the iconic symbols of the Cold War, but may lack the historical context to understand their deeper meaning. What did Winston Churchill mean when he said “an iron curtain has descended” across Europe? Why was the Berlin Wall actually built?

To answer these questions, students first need to fully understand the fundamental difference between the two nations and their political ideologies: capitalism and communism.

Help your students explore the political climates of the world’s leading superpowers in the 1940s with this Investigate activity on the origins of the Cold War. This critical thinking curriculum package includes background materials, key vocabulary, and clarifying questions that will help students answer the central inquiry question:

What was the Cold War, and what were the key differences between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that set the stage for it?

This Investigate activity is part of ABC-CLIO’s American History database, a survey of American History from the colonial era through the modern day. Click here to activate your free preview of this database and gain access to:

  • Thousands of primary sources, including government documents, photos, maps, audio and video recordings, and more
  • Biographies of famous political, military, and cultural figures
  • Activities for historical investigation providing a curated selection of primary and secondary sources to help students answer a central inquiry question
  • More than 360 Course Essential Video modules

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