The Cultural Cold War

The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

Winner of the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Memorial Prize, the classic history of the CIA’s covert funding of cultural
activities—from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to Abstract Expressionism—during the Cold War, reissued with a new preface by the author

“Frances Stonor Saunders has almost single-handedly started off a branch of sub-history: the cultural cold war. . . . An extraordinarily good book, and I recommend it to anyone.” —Ian McEwan

During the Cold War, freedom of expression was vaunted as liberal democracy’s most cherished possession—but such freedom was put in service of a hidden agenda. In The Cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders reveals the extraordinary efforts of a secret campaign in which some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom in the West were working for or subsidized by the CIA—whether they knew it or not.

Called “the most comprehensive account yet of the [CIA’s] activities between 1947 and 1967” by the New York Times, the book presents shocking evidence of the CIA’s undercover program of cultural interventions in Western Europe and at home, drawing together declassified documents and exclusive interviews to expose the CIA’s astonishing campaign to deploy the likes of Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Lowell, George Orwell, and Jackson Pollock as weapons in the Cold War. Translated into ten languages, this classic work—now with a new preface by the author—is “a real contribution to popular understanding of the postwar period” (The Wall Street Journal), and its story of covert cultural efforts to win hearts and minds continues to be relevant today.


“A real contribution to popular understanding of the postwar period.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Makes clear the sinuous interlocking nature of American governmental, corporate and cultural life . . . consistently fascinating.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
“A major work of investigative history [and] an extremely valuable contribution to the all-important post–World War II record.”
—Edward Said, London Review of Books
“Saunders negotiates an ocean of factual material deftly and . . . is very good on the ethical and political ironies of the CIA’s cultural projects.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“An extraordinarily good book . . . I recommend it to anyone.”
—Ian McEwan
“[Saunders] writes with a sense of humor and an appreciation of the historical circumstances. . . . [She] avoids polemic and fits the fragments of elusive fact into a coherent and persuasive narrative.”
—Lewis Lapham, Los Angeles Times
“A tale of intrigue and betrayal, with scene after scene as thrilling as any in a John le Carré novel.”
Chronicle of Higher Education
“The comprehensive guide to the CIA’s involvement with the arts.”
The Awl

News and Reviews


Mention in article on politics in Arab art

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