Cover: Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy, from Harvard University PressCover: Cold War at 30,000 Feet in HARDCOVER

Cold War at 30,000 Feet

The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy

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$41.00 • £35.95 • €37.95

ISBN 9780674024618

Publication Date: 03/31/2007


384 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

11 halftones


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Jeffrey A. Engel’s study of Anglo–American rivalry in aviation provides a fascinating look at the underlying issues that strained the alliance during the first two decades of the Cold War. Building on existing historiography regarding the allies’ different strategic visions during this period, Engel develops a fascinating new approach by demonstrating how conflicts over aviation policy illuminate these differences. Employing an impressive array of archival research, the author details how the allies endured a number of potentially serious disagreements regarding the diffusion of aviation technology. While Engel may overestimate the damage that these disputes had on the alliance, as no real crises developed from the cases he explores, he does an exceptional job of showing how important airpower was in the conflicting worldviews of the two great English-speaking powers.—Daniel C. Williamson, American Historical Review

This book recounts Britain’s challenge to American hegemony in the production of airliners during the years after the Second World War. Ho hum, you’d think. But with a cast of colorful characters—among them Ernest Bevin, Dean Acheson, and John Maynard Keynes—and acute glimpses into how things worked in postwar Washington, this chronicle of an intense commercial struggle gives readers a fascinating glimpse into a forgotten cranny of history.The Atlantic

Cold War at 30,000 Feet stands out as one of a handful of books on the diplomacy of commercial aviation and as one of the few that emphasize the fierce competition between the United States and Great Britain in the early Cold War. Its narrower chronological focus, in particular, sets it apart from its closest historiographical cousin, Alan Dobson’s Peaceful Air WarfareEngel’s book asks interesting questions, offers new and thorough research, and is a compelling read.—Jeff Woods, Diplomatic History

Jeffrey A. Engel’s book is a fascinating read, especially for those who maintain that international relations are defined by ‘high politics’ (as in global alliances and security issues) that take precedent over ‘low politics’ (such as financial and trade issues). In examining Anglo–American differences over the trade in aeronautics (engines and aircraft), Engel shows just how much low politics mattered—and how they could be defining moments of high politics when international relations collided with economic and trade interests… Cold War at 30,000 Feet is an important addition to our understanding of the Cold War.—Marc Dierikx, Journal of American History

An impressive work that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the Cold War and Anglo–American relations. Engel’s view of the conflict and cooperation between the United States and Britain adds considerable nuance to existing interpretations, especially with the British skullduggery over Viscount sales to the People’s Republic of China. This was a delight to read.—Alan P. Dobson, University of Dundee

A story of power and conflict brilliantly told. Engel reveals in unprecedented detail the bitter Anglo–American discord over policies to control the sale of the most technologically advanced aircraft of the Atomic Age. This book will change our perspective on the Cold War.—Richard H. Immerman, Temple University

This brilliant book contributes to both the history of the airplane industry and Cold War history. Great Britain and the United States competed for supremacy and clashed over sales in the industry as leaders in each nation believed they alone knew how to strike the proper balance between the demands of security and the needs of commerce. It is a fascinating and important story, and Engel tells it well.—Richard S. Kirkendall, University of Washington

Despite their strategic special relationship, cooperation between the British and Americans masked a fierce rivalry for air power after World War II. This thorough yet fast-paced narrative is not only a rich contribution to Cold War history, but a timely reminder about the limits to globalization in a world where hard power still matters, even among ‘friends.’—Walter A. McDougall, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age

An excellent, ambitious book. I know of no other work that uses aviation to explore the Special Relationship. Engel is a superb writer, with a keen sense of the drama of his story and an ability to make the topic come alive.—Thomas W. Zeiler, University of Colorado

Awards & Accolades

  • 2008 Paul Birdsall Prize, American Historical Association

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