The Cold War forms a key part of both AQA and Edexcel GCSE History courses. It is a fascinating part of history, full of intrigue, espionage and the looming nuclear armageddon. What’s not to love? Despite this, it certainly is a large topic, and requires students to be familiar with a great deal of terminology, names, political systems, dates and numbers. Often, one of the trickiest things is to keep up with who is leading the USA and USSR – and importantly, during which event. With this in mind, I have created a “skeleton” timeline below, listing some of the key events of the Cold War for both the Edexcel and AQA GCSE specifications.

Use this as a basis to start your own revision, but think about the overall “narrative” (i.e. hotting up, crises, detente and collapse), as well as which events you would add in. Consider other important developments such as the arms race, space race, eastern European satellite states moving away, or proxy wars such as the Korean conflict.

If you are unsure of what content is required for your exam board, make sure to read the specification first. AQA can be found here. Edexcel can be found here. For bonus points, Seneca Learning is a fantastic, free website (with exam board specific modules across many topics) – test your knowledge in context here! Good luck, and happy cold-warring.


USA PresidentsUSSR LeadersKey Events
Franklin D. Roosevelt: 1933-1945  Joseph Stalin: 1924-1953Tehran (Nov 1943), Yalta (Feb 1945) and Potsdam Conferences (July 1945)  
Harry S. Truman: 1945-1953   August 1945 – Hiroshima Bombing  
February 1946 – Long Telegram
September 1946 – Novikov Telegram
March 1947 – Truman Doctrine  
June 1948 – Berlin Blockade  
 Gregory Malenkov: 1953   
Dwight D. Eisenhower: 1953-1961  Nikita Khrushchev: 1953-19641955 – Vietnam War begins
1956 – Hungarian Uprising
John F. Kennedy: 1961-1963   April 1961 – Bay of Pigs Invasion
August 1961 – Berlin Wall Constructed
October 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis  
Lyndon B. Johnson: 1963-1969  Leonid Brezhnev: 1964-19821968 – Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Richard Nixon: 1969-1974    
Gerald Ford: 1974-1977   April 1975 – Vietnam War Ends
August 1975 – Helsinki Agreements
Jimmy Carter: 1977-1981   Dec 1979 – USSR invades Afghanistan
Ronald Reagan: 1981-1989  Yuri Andropov: 1982-1984March 1983 – Strategic Defence Initiative (Reagan’s “Star Wars”)
 Konstantin Chernenko: 1984-1985   
George H. W. Bush: 1989-1993  Mikhail Gorbachev: 1985-19911987 – Gorbachev’s “New Thinking” (Perestroika and Glasnost)
August 1991 – Moscow Military Coup
November 1991 – Fall of the Berlin Wall

One thought on “Super Power Relations and the Cold War Timeline

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