History Department
History Department

Simon Miles

MA, London School of Economics and Political Science; BA, University of Toronto

Ph.D. Candidate
Simon Miles



Cold War diplomatic history; International history; European international relations; US foreign policy; International security; Nuclear history


I am an international historian researching the end of the Cold War.

In August 2017, I will join the faculty of Duke University as an assistant professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy. I completed my Ph.D. in history at the University of Texas at Austin, where I was a Fellow at the William P. Clements Jr. Center for National Security, in May 2017.

Using recently declassified archival materials from both sides of the Iron Curtain, my book project explores the causes of one of the most important international political changes of the twentieth century: the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War.


Engaging the ‘Evil Empire’: East-West Relations in the Second Cold War

Between 1980 and 1985, the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union underwent unexpected and profound change, so much so that scholars regularly use the case as an example of longstanding rivals setting aside prior disagreements and beginning to cooperate. What explains these shifts in strategy? Why would the United States and Soviet Union — or any great powers — begin cooperating after an extended period of intense rivalry?

Using new materials from British, Canadian, Czech, French, German, Russian, Ukrainian, and US archives, I analyze this turn of events, identifying two main catalysts. First, at the inter-bloc level, changing perceptions of the balance of power brought about the Cold War’s peaceful conclusion. As Western military and economic power increased after 1980, leaders felt they enjoyed a strategic margin of error that allowed them to engage the Soviet Union. Eastern bloc policy-makers in fact shared this perception. By 1985, they came to realize that they would have to engage with the West lest they be left isolated and increasingly vulnerable. Second, at the intra-bloc level, conversations about security shifted the course of the Cold War. Alliance politics played a hitherto under-appreciated role in shaping both US and Soviet behavior. Archival evidence shows that the superpowers’ allies vigorously engaged their supposed patrons, shaping perceptions and actions while advancing their own agendas.

Envisioning Détente: The Johnson Administration and the October 1964 Khrushchev Ouster
Diplomatic History, Vol. 40, No. 4 (2016)

After considerable turbulence, the Cold War reached a period of relative stability in the early 1960s. The ouster of Nikita Khrushchev in October 1964 could have imperiled this inchoate accord between the United States and Soviet Union, but instead represented an acknowledgment in both Washington and Moscow of the importance of maintaining stability and consistency in superpower relations. Making extensive use of US and Soviet primary materials (especially from the Johnson Library), this paper outlines the successes and failures of American analysis during and after the leadership transition. The Johnson administration quickly came to understand that the Kremlin shared its goal of stability, and identified several important themes presaging a period of détente. This paper offers insight into policy making and preferences in the Johnson White House, the evolution of perceptions of the Soviet Union in the West, and the roots of détente.

Carving a Diplomatic Niche? The April 1956 Soviet Visit to Britain
Diplomacy & Statecraft, Vol. 24, No. 4 (2013)

Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin’s visit to Britain in April 1956 was the first by the new Soviet leadership to a Western bloc country after Josef Stalin’s death. It presented British policy-makers with a unique opportunity for insight and discussion. However, British self-deception regarding their scope for independent action as well as excessive focus on events in the Middle East hampered efforts to build a rapport with Khrushchev and Bulganin. This analysis explores the planning and conduct of what turned out to be a fruitless diplomatic initiative. The visit illustrates British and Soviet policy at the time, as well as Britain’s already clear position as the junior partner in the Anglo-American “special relationship” on the eve of Suez.


I have experience teaching courses on US foreign relations and the history of espionage at universities in the United States and Canada. Further teaching references are available upon request; please feel free to contact me.

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