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[Extract] If you’re old enough, and grew up in a left-wing family, the Cold War is a part of your personal life, not just a public event. If you’re a historian as well, perhaps even teaching the Cold War to students who don’t remember it, you may therefore have two versions of the Cold War: the public one that you teach, and the private one you remember. Of course, your public version of such a politically charged episode will probably not be completely above the fray, that is, independent of your own political position, even if you were trained at the University of Melbourne in its glory days and took the historian’s equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath to be objective. As some time has passed since objectivity as goal and method went unchallenged in historical circles, you may even introduce carefully flagged elements of your private experience into your undergraduate lectures. But there will still be your own intimate history of the Cold War hidden away at the back of your mind, with you and your family at its centre, which emerges only if you start writing memoirs. Quite a few people from what Americans calls the ‘Red Diaper’ cohort have started to do this; and, interestingly enough, many of them are historians. In this essay, I will examine the phenomenon of Cold War memoirs from children of the Old Left, both in the context of Australia (to which I returned in 2012 after many years working as a Russian/Soviet historian in American academia) and the United States.


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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