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The Human Factor

Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War

Archie Brown

Publication Date - 30 September 2022

ISBN: 9780197635094

528 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


Why did the Cold War end when it did? Few questions have generated more heated debate over the course of the last three decades. Archie Brown, one of the foremost experts on the subject, shows why the popular view that Western economic and military strength left the Soviet Union with no alternative but to admit defeat is erroneous. To understand what really happened, he argues, we need to focus on the parts played by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and especially Mikhail Gorbachev in the crucial years of the 1980s. The Human Factor shows that despite their profound differences, these leaders were able to find common ground at a moment when East-West relations were under the greatest strain. The central figure is Gorbachev, whose unlikely rise to power rocked the establishment, both within the Soviet Union and in the West. While Thatcher's hard lines more closely matched those of her ideological soulmate, Ronald Reagan, she was able to convince Reagan that Gorbachev was a "man to do business with" and became an agent of influence in both directions. By the end of the 1980s East-West relations had been transformed. At a decisive juncture in history the actions and interactions between these three key figures laid the groundwork for a different world.

Brown's clear-eyed and fascinating account brings to bear a lifetime of scholarship and engagement, and offers the definitive account of the central role leadership played in ending the Cold War.


  • Brown is a leading authority on Gorbachev and was the first person to draw Margaret Thatcher's attention to him as a reform-minded likely future Soviet leader
  • First book to focus specifically on the relationships between Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, the three major figures of this period
  • Challenges the commonly held belief that the Cold War ended due to American military superiority

About the Author(s)

Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford


"The Human FactorÂis in many respects the culmination of Archie Brown's long and distinguished career as a scholar and writer. It is full of a lifetime's achievement of wisdom and thought." -- Fiona Hill, Brookings Institution, Washington DC

"Brown's book is a superb achievement, a balanced, judicious and authoritative account of a foundation event of our contemporary world" -- Christopher Read, Diplomacy and Statecraft

"This very important, detailed and clearly-written account of the 'Gorbachev Period' of Soviet political history certainly deserved to win last year's London Pushkin House Book Prize for what the judges considered to be the most significant recently published English language work about Russia ... Archie Brown makes a convincing case." -- Martin Dewhirst, East-West Review

"Brownâs study is a major contribution to our understanding of the end of the Cold War: scholarly yet very readable and full of memorable anecdotes about the three leaders. He shows that what Gorbachev called âthe human factorâ allowed trust to grow between the former adversaries, creating a unique opportunity for peace at a time when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war." -- PD Smith, The Guardian

"written with acute panache and a kinetic knowledge that spans the subject matterâs entire era (and then some)." -- , David Marx Book Reviews

"... a thought-provoking book... I highly recommend this book to readers. Brown is right to highlight the âhuman factorâ in the ending of the Cold War... the sharpness of many of Brownâs insights, condensed with commendable crispness in this 500-page [make the book an], eminently readable foray into a highly contentious subject." -- Sergey Radchenko, Slavic Review

Table of Contents

    1. The Reality of the Cold War
    2. Mikhail Gorbachev: from Communist reformer to gravedigger of Communism?
    3. Ronald Reagan: from Cold Warrior to Peacemonger?
    4. Margaret Thatcher: 'agent of influence'?
    5. Breaking the ice (1985-86)
    6. Building trust (1987)
    7. The End of the Ideological Divide (1988)
    8. The End of the Cold War (1989)
    9. The Immediate Consequences (1990-91)
    10. Aftermath (1992 to the present day)

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