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; Nuclear history


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

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department and a Fellow at the William P. Clements Jr. Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin. During the 2014–2016 academic years, I  am a Visiting Fellow at the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

Using recently declassified archival materials from around the globe, my dissertation project explores the causes of one of the most important international political changes of the twentieth century.

I am a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Toronto.


Engaging the ‘Evil Empire’: US-Soviet Relations in the Second Cold War

Question. 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?

Implications. In adding to the historiography of the Reagan administration and the end of the Cold War, my project challenges the prominent scholarly and policy wisdom according to which strong, rising states will become more aggressive at the expense of weak, declining states. Precisely the opposite occurred in superpower relations during the first half of the 1980s: US economic recovery and military superiority emboldened Reagan to cooperate with Moscow (albeit without making major concessions) at the very moment when shifts in the distribution of power enabled the White House to ignore Soviet concerns with increasing impunity. The case of US-Soviet relations from 1980 to 1985 thus helps us to understand the larger phenomenon of why states engage in diplomatic bargaining to achieve their aims, rather than resorting to naked coercion.

Methodology. My project makes use of newly accessible archival materials from both sides of the Iron Curtain to situate US foreign policy in a broader framework. Though I am a historian of US foreign relations and the majority of my evidence comes from US archives, I have also conducted extensive research in the archives of Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the Soviet Union, which has enabled me to incorporate evidence from the highest levels of Soviet and Warsaw Pact policy-making in my analysis. Furthermore, my research in the archives of key US allies — Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and West Germany — offers insights into their respective perceptions of decisions made in Washington and their sense of the changing nature of US-Soviet relations. This commitment to international, multi-lingual research is at the core of my dissertation project and of my approach to teaching and writing policy-relevant history.


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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