Project Reviews

The Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security
Created and maintained by the International Relations and Security Network at the Center for Security Studies, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland

The Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security, maintained by the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) at the Center for Security Studies (CSS), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), aims to add a historical dimension to the ISN, whose goal it is to promote open access to information on security policy. It "provides new scholarly perspectives on contemporary international history by publishing, collecting, and interpreting formerly secret government documents. The site covers a wide array of topics concerning the Cold War and its ramifications for the modern world.

The PHP project director is Vojtech Mastny, a Senior Research Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars and Senior Fellow at the National Security Archive. These two institutions support the two digital history projects The Cold War International History Project and The National Security Archive, complementing the PHP's research on the Cold War. Mastny has written extensively about Eastern Europe in the Cold War and brings a wealth of knowledge to the project.

The PHP is currently edited by Shana Goldberg, who received her MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science and her BA from Brandeis University. Goldberg's areas of interest are post communist transition and issues of identity. The senior researchers at the PHP are Anna Locher, who specializes in transatlantic relations, and Roland Popp, who focuses on Cold War history, the politics of nuclear proliferation and the international history of the Middle East. Goldberg, Locher, and Popp all share an interest in mid-twentieth century international relations, but their areas of expertise cover a wide range of historical topics.

The PHP began in 1999 as the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact that grew in response to the declassification of NATO records and the growing availability of materials from Eastern and Central European archives. Since its inception the PHP has collected, analyzed and presented thousands of pages of material about security related issues concerning the Cold War as well as held numerous conferences. The large majority of the primary and secondary sources utilized by the PHP are available on its website, which is available to the general public. Since 2006 the PHP has shifted its focus away simply the contest between NATO and the Warsaw Pact to include: "the European zecurity model; NATO enlargement and its out-of-area problem; regional security in Asia, Latin America, and Africa; threat perceptions, strategic doctrines, military plans; and peacekeeping and nongovernmental organizations as new security factors during and after the Cold War." The scope of the PHP has become far more international and encompassing since 1999.

The sitemap of the PHP is divided into seven sections: collections, publications, conferences, news, services, PHP network, and about. The collections, as the centerpiece of the project, are divided into seven sub-sections: Warsaw Pact Records, Warsaw Pact Plans, Intelligence, Crises, Warsaw Pact Generals, National Perspectives, NATO Records, and Gobal Cold War. Each of these sub-sections is divided further by historically specific topics, such as the 1961 Berlin Crisis, Polish generals, or Soviet-Indonesian relations. The page concerning the 1961 Berlin Crisis, for example, has a brief descriptive analysis of the pages primary sources documents and then provides links to said documents. All of the sites archival materials can be found in these collections as well as a fair deal of analysis. This collections section of the PHP is very easy to navigate and the search is very affective. However, a large number of the documents have not been translated, proving a frustration for those not fluent in German, Russian, or any of the many languages present in the collections.

The publications, conferences, and services section of the PHP provides any interested party with further secondary analysis of the websites many topics. The publications section includes digital copies of books, PHP essays, a bibliography of various topics, and e-dossiers. The e-dossiers are very useful for any scholar to further their readings in Cold War national security, strategy, and diplomacy. They are thematically compiled collections of essays, by scholars from their respective fields that provide further analysis of the research conducted by the PHP. The conferences section provides news on upcoming conferences as well as links to the websites of previous conferences. There are also very useful conference reports that synthesize the goings on at the various conferences. The services section provides links to other archives, book reviews, news on archival legislation and declassification, as well as links to digital archives, such as the CWIHP and the NSA.

The PHP is really an excellent place for the scholar or lay historian to begin or further research of the Cold War. The number of primary and secondary source documents makes the website and invaluable tool for any student of the period. However, because many of the primary documents have not been translated they will not be accessible to those who do not have the required language skills. Although this is a minor critique and does not affect all of the PHP's documents, it does create a barrier to the further dissemination of knowledge that the web is intended to break down.

Overall the PHP is an excellent website. Although it does not provide everything a scholar will need for their research of a topic, it does provide significant materials for the creation of that scholarship.

Andy Wilson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Reviewed: December 2009