Miller Center

James G. Wilson

History, University of Virginia

Bolts from the Blue: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the End of the Cold War

Wilson photo

James Graham Wilson is a Historian at the U.S. Department of State.

He received his B.A. from Vassar College in 2003, and subsequently worked as a research assistant to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. He has presented portions of his dissertation in Rome, Geneva, Cologne, and Amsterdam, and has received the U.Va Award for Excellence in Scholarship in the Humanities & Social Sciences as well as the U.Va Graduate Teaching Assistant Award. Recent articles have appeared in Diplomacy and Statecraft, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of American Studies.

James's first book, The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev's Adaptability, Reagan's Engagement, and the End of the Cold War was published by Cornell University Press in 2013.  It was based upon his dissertation, which drew upon fresh archival evidence that illuminates decision-making in Washington and Moscow during the last ten years of the Cold War. It contends that policymakers neither formulated a strategy for victory nor even articulated what victory meant—at least until the Berlin Wall crumbled in November 1989; that the revolutions of 1989-1990 were made possible by broad historical forces such as changes in the international economy and the nascent information age; and that the twilight struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union ended peacefully because of Gorbachev's devotion to new thinking, new faces, and the Soviet leader's (ill-founded) belief that he could reconfigure communism to adapt to a new era.

Fellowship year: 2011

Mentor: Jeremi Suri

Selected Recent Publications

"Key Figures at the End of the Cold War." C-Span Discussion, April 28, 2014.

The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev's Adaptability, Reagan's Engagement, and the End of the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2013)

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