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In 1945 George Orwell coined the phrase “Cold War” and made a number of pessimistic predictions about it. He thought that nuclear weapons would most likely lead to a bleak world enslaved by superpowered American, Soviet, and perhaps Chinese empires, not destroyed by nuclear war. He also argued all resistance to the superpowers by the peoples of the Global South was futile because of the superpowers’ overwhelming military and economic superiority. These Cold War predictions formed the basis for the world of Orwell’s most famous and influential work, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The following thesis compares Orwell’s warnings about the Cold War to the historical record of the United States and Soviet Union during it. This thesis concludes that superpower hegemony was not as absolute as Orwell feared because of the importance of popular support in sustaining a nation, winning a guerilla war, and maintaining a hegemony. It also concludes that the hegemony of the Cold War United States was the inverse of the conditions found in Nineteen Eighty-Four and that the Soviet Union’s Cold War empire lacked the level of imperial stability and economic dominance required of an Orwellian super-state. Both real and imagined superpowered rivalry continues to be a historical motif in the twenty-first century, and the illiberal dangers and temptations of hegemony this thesis details remain relevant to the present and future.


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  • DPLA rights
    • Copyright, Coleman Lee 2019

  • Advisor
    • Dr. Martin Blackwell, Dr. Cristian Harris, Dr. Richard Byers

  • Department
    • History

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords