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  • Published: 16 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9780307386335
  • Imprint: Knopf US
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640
  • RRP: $35.00

Gambling with Armageddon

Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis




From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus comes the first effort to set the Cuban Missile Crisis, with its potential for nuclear holocaust, in a wider historical narrative of the Cold War—how such a crisis arose and why, at the very last possible moment, it never happened.

“Fresh and thrilling.... A fascinating work of history that is very relevant to today’s politics.” —Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Code Breaker

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Martin J. Sherwin introduces a dramatic new view of how luck and leadership avoided a nuclear holocaust during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Set within the sweep of the Cold War and its nuclear history, every chapter of this gripping narrative of the origins and resolution of history’s most dangerous thirteen days offers lessons and a warning for our time. Gambling with Armageddon presents a riveting, page turning account of the crisis as well as an original exploration of the evolving place of nuclear weapons in the Post-World War II world.

  • Published: 16 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9780307386335
  • Imprint: Knopf US
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640
  • RRP: $35.00

Praise for Gambling with Armageddon

“In this riveting book, Sherwin provides a fresh and thrilling account of the Cuban Missile Crisis and also puts it into historical perspective. With great new material, he shows the effect of nuclear arms on global affairs, starting with the decision to bomb Hiroshima. It is a fascinating work of history that is very relevant to today’s politics.” —Walter Isaacson, author of Leonardo da Vinci "Intricately detailed, vividly written, and nearly Tolstoyan in scope, Sherwin’s account reveals just how close the Cold War came to boiling over. History buffs will be enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “A fresh examination of the Cuban missile crisis and its wider historical context, showing how the U.S. avoided nuclear war . . . Makes it clear how national leaders bumbled through the crisis, avoiding nuclear Armageddon through modest amounts of wisdom mixed with plenty of machismo, delusions, and serendipity . . . A fearfully convincing case that avoiding nuclear war ‘is contingent on the world’s dwindling reservoir of good luck.’” Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Examines nuclear policy as it evolved in the Cold War, culminating with the chillingly suspenseful week-long drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis . . . Grounded in an exceptional and up-to-date knowledge of the military, diplomatic, and individual components of American and Soviet politics.” —Mark Levine, Booklist (starred review) “A thrilling account of the tension-filled days when the world teetered on the edge of nuclear apocalypse. Drawing on new sources, Martin Sherwin shows how the Cuban missile crisis grew out of the nuclear sabre-rattling of the Cold War, going all the way back to the early confrontations between Truman and Stalin. No one is better equipped to tell this story than Sherwin, who has devoted his life to thinking about Armageddon, as witnessed by his ground-breaking biography of Robert Oppenheimer. A splendid accomplishment and a great read!” —Michael Dobbs, author of One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War   "Gambling with Armageddon will have a powerful and lasting impact because it does things that no other study does in an area that could not be more significant. Sherwin makes clear that the Cuban missile crisis was not really an aberration but an unsurprising outcome of the history and psychology world leaders brought to the weapons. We also learn how much mere chance—good luck—saved us from world-ending catastrophe. Sherwin has written a book that matters deeply, and has made an elegantly convincing argument for the abolition of nuclear weapons." —Robert Jay Lifton, author of Losing Reality “This is what happens when one of the pioneers of nuclear history—one who researches broadly, thinks deeply, and writes beautifully—comes to grips with the most dangerous moment in human history. The result gives us a new understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the broader context of the nuclear age and reminds us, even decades later, how dangerous our nuclear arsenals remain. Gambling with Armageddon is essential reading.” —Philip Nash, author of The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the Jupiters, 1957-1963 “Martin Sherwin’s beautiful account shows how the crisis grew out of the brinkmanship of the Cold War. He brings to life the main characters and examines with a marvelous combination of empathy and a critical intelligence, the decisions that Kennedy and Khrushchev faced and the choices they made. This is by far the best book on the crisis and a book of great relevance for today.” —David