Political positions of Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989). A Republican from California, and a former movie actor and governor, he was charismatic, and mixed strong rhetoric with pragmatic solutions reached in compromises with his critics. He energized the conservative movement in the United States starting in 1964. His basic foreign policy was to equal and surpass the Soviet Union in military strength, and put it on the road to what he called "the ash heap of history." By 1985, he began to cooperate closely with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – they even became friends – and negotiated large-scale disarmament projects. The Cold War was fading away when it suddenly ended as Soviet lost control of Eastern Europe almost overnight in October 1989. That was nine months after Reagan was replaced in the White House by his vice president George Herbert Walker Bush, who was following Reagan's policies. The Soviet Union itself was dissolved in December 1991. In terms of the Reagan doctrine, he promoted military and financial and diplomatic support for anti-Communist insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and numerous countries. For the most part local communist power collapsed when the Soviet Union collapsed. In domestic affairs, at a time of stagflation with high unemployment and high inflation, he took dramatic steps. They included a major tax cut, and large scale deregulation of business activities. He took steps to weaken labor unions, and found a bipartisan long-term fix to protect the Social Security system. Although he had the support from the Religious Right, he generally avoided or downplayed social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and racial integration. He spoke out for prayers in public schools but did not promote a constitutional amendment to allow it, Fighting drugs was a high priority, but promoting feminism was not, even though he did appoint the first women to the Supreme Court. He became an iconic figure to which Republican candidates for the next generation often praised.


"Ronald Reagan was convivial, upbeat, courteous, respectful, self-confident, and humble. But he was also opaque, remote, distant, and inscrutable," says historian Melvyn P. Leffler[1] According to James P. Pfiffner, University Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, Reagan was a larger-than-life character, a formidable politician, and an important president. His complexity produced a "presidency of paradoxes," in which dramatic successes mingled with unfortunate failures. He strengths included broad vision and clear direction. Voters appreciated his optimism, geniality, and gracious nature, which made his ideals seem all that more attractive. He believed that all national problems were simple problems, and had faith in simple solutions. That strengthened his resolve but also led to failures when there were deep complications. Paradoxically, his victories depended on his willingness to make pragmatic compromises without forsaking his ideals.[2]

Reagan himself made the major policy decisions, and often overruled his top advisers in cases such as the Reykjavík Summit in 1986, and his 1987 speech calling for tearing down the Berlin wall.[3] He was concerned with very broad issues, as well as anecdotal evidence to support his beliefs. He paid very little attention to details and elaborate briefings. When senior officials did not work out, such as Secretary of State Al Haig, they were fired. Reagan went through a series of six national security advisers before settling on people he trusted. Indeed, the one of them John Poindexter was trusted too much.[4] Poindexter and his aide Oliver North engaged in a secret deal with Iran called the Iran–Contra affair that seriously damaged Reagan's reputation. Reagan had rarely travelled abroad, and relied on an inner circle of advisers who were not foreign policy experts, including his wife, James Baker, Edwin Meese and Michael Deaver. Haig had the credentials to be Secretary of State, but he was arrogant and unable to get along with the other top aides. He was replaced by George P. Shultz, who proved much more collaborative, and has been generally admired by historians. Other key players included William J. Casey, director of the CIA, William P. Clark, national security advisor, and Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ambassador to the United Nations. Casper W. Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, successfully rebuilt and expanded the military, but did not coordinate well with the foreign policy leadership.[5][6]

Foreign policy[edit]

Cold War[edit]

Reagan served as President during the last part of the Cold War, an era of escalating ideological disagreements and preparations for war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Reagan in 1982 denounced the enemy as an "evil empire" that would be consigned to the "ash heap of history" and he later predicted that communism would collapse.[7]

He reversed the policy of détente[8] and massively built up the United States military.[9]

He proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a defense project[10] that planned to use ground and space-based missile defense systems to protect the United States from attack.[11] Reagan believed that this defense shield could make nuclear war impossible.[10][12] Reagan was convinced that the Soviet Union could be defeated rather than simply negotiated with.[13]

Policy toward USSR[edit]

Reagan forcefully confronted the Soviet Union, marking a sharp departure from the détente observed by his predecessors Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Under the assumption that the Soviet Union was financially unable to match the United States in a renewed arms race, he accelerated increases in defense spending begun during the Carter Administration and strove to make the Cold War economically and rhetorically hot.[14]

Reagan had three motivations. First he agreed with the neoconservatives who argued that the Soviets had pulled ahead in military power and the U.S. had to race to catch up. Stansfield Turner, CIA director under Carter, warned in 1981 that, "in the last several years all of the best studies have shown that the balance of strategic nuclear capabilities has been tipping in favor of the Soviet Union."[15] Second, Reagan believed the decrepit Soviet economy could not handle a high-tech weapons race based on computers; it was imperative to block them from gaining western technology.[16]

Third, was the moral certainty that Communism was evil and doomed to failure. Reagan was the first major world leader to declare that Communism would soon collapse.[17] On March 3, 1983, he was blunt to a religious group: the Soviet Union is "the focus of evil in the modern world" and could not last: "I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose — last pages even now are being written."[18] His most detailed analysis came on June 8, 1982, to the British Parliament, stunning the Soviets and allies alike. Most experts assumed that the Soviet Union would be around for generations to come, and it was essential to recognize that and work with them. But Reagan ridiculed the USSR as an "evil empire" and argued that it was suffering a deep economic crisis, which he intended to make worse by cutting off western technology. He stated the Soviet Union "runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens." [19]

A year later in 1983 Reagan stunned the world with a totally new idea: the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), labeled "star wars" by the media, after the current movie. Reagan, following the ideas of Edward Teller (who invented the H-Bomb in 1950) called for a defensive missile umbrella over the U.S. that would intercept and destroy in space any hostile missiles. It was an unexpected, new idea, and supporters cheered, as SDI seemed to promise protection from nuclear destruction. To opponents, SDI meant a new arms race and the end of the Mutual Assured Destruction ("MAD") strategy that they believed had so far prevented nuclear war. The Soviets were stunned—they lacked basic computers and were unable to say whether it would work or not. Critics said it would cost a trillion dollars; yes said supporters, and the Soviets will go bankrupt if they try to match it. The SDI was in fact funded but was never operational.[20][21][22]

Defense spending[edit]

The Reagan administration made dramatic increases in defense spending one of their three main priorities on taking office. The transition to the new professional all-professional force was finalized, and the draft forgotten. A dramatic expansion of salary bases and benefits for both enlisted and officers made career service much more attractive. Under the aggressive leadership of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, the development of the B-1 bomber was reinstated, and there was funding for a new B-2 bomber, as well as cruise missiles, the MX missile, and a 600 ship Navy. The new weaponry was designed with Soviet targets in mind. In terms of real dollars after taxation, defense spending jump 34 percent between 1981 in 1985. Reagan's two terms, defense spending totaled about 2 trillion dollars, but even so it was a lower percentage of the federal budget or have the GDP, then before 1976.[23][24] There were arms sales to build up allies as well. The most notable came in 1981, a $8.5 billion sale to Saudi Arabia involving aircraft, tanks, and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). Israel protested, since the AWACS would undermine its strategic attack capabilities. To mollify Israel and its powerful lobby in Washington, the United States promised to supply it with an additional F-15 squadron, a $600 million loan, and permission to export Israeli-made Kfir fighting aircraft to Latin American armies.[25][26]

In its first term administration looked at arms control measures with deep suspicion. However, after the massive buildup, and the second term it looked at them with favor and achieve major arms reductions with Mikhail Gorbachev.[27]

Nuclear weapons[edit]

According to several scholars and Reagan biographers, including, John Lewis Gaddis, Richard Reeves, Lou Cannon and Reagan himself in his autobiography, Reagan earnestly desired the abolition of all nuclear weapons. He proposed to Mikhail Gorbachev that if a missile shield could be built, all nuclear weapons be eliminated and the missile shield technology shared, the world would be much better off. Paul Lettow has argued that Reagan's opposition to nuclear weapons started at the dawn of the nuclear age and in December 1945 he was only prevented from leading an anti-nuclear rally in Hollywood by pressure from the Warner Brothers studio.[28]

Reagan believed the mutually assured destruction policy formulated in the 1950s to be morally wrong. In his autobiography, Reagan wrote:

The Pentagon said at least 150 million American lives would be lost in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union—even if we 'won.' For Americans who survived such a war, I couldn't imagine what life would be like. The planet would be so poisoned the 'survivors' would have no place to live. Even if a nuclear war did not mean the extinction of mankind, it would certainly mean the end of civilization as we knew it. No one could 'win' a nuclear war. Yet as long as nuclear weapons were in existence, there would always be risks they would be used, and once the first nuclear weapon was unleashed, who knew where it would end? My dream, then, became a world free of nuclear weapons. ... For the eight years I was president I never let my dream of a nuclear-free world fade from my mind.[29]

Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 (and ratified in 1988), which was the first in Cold War history to mandate the destruction of an entire class of nuclear weapons.[30]


Originally neutral in the Iran–Iraq War of 1980 to 1988, the Reagan administration began supporting Iraq because an Iranian victory would not serve the interests of the United States.[31] In 1983, Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive memo which called for heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities, measures to improve U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, directed the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take appropriate measures to respond to tensions in the area.[31]

Economic policy[edit]

Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981

Economic plans, taxes and deficit[edit]

Reagan believed in policies based on supply-side economics and advocated a laissez-faire philosophy,[32] seeking to stimulate the economy with large, across-the-board tax cuts.[33][34] Reagan pointed to improvements in certain key economic indicators as evidence of success.[9] The policies proposed that economic growth would occur when marginal tax rates were low enough to spur investment,[35] which would then lead to increased economic growth, higher employment and wages.

Reagan did not believe in raising income taxes. During his presidential tenure, the top federal income tax rates were lowered from 70% to 28%.[36] However, it has also been acknowledged that Reagan did raise taxes on eleven occasions during his presidency in an effort to both preserve his defense agenda and combat the growing national debt and budget deficit.[37]

In order to cover the growing federal budget deficits and the decreased revenue that resulted from the cuts, the U.S. borrowed heavily both domestically and abroad, raising the national debt from $1.1 trillion to $2.7 trillion.[38] Reagan described the new debt as the "greatest disappointment" of his presidency.[38]

Free trade[edit]

Reagan was a supporter of free trade.[39] When running for President in 1979, Reagan proposed a "North American accord", in which goods could move freely throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.[40] Largely dismissed then, Reagan was serious in his proposal and once in office he signed an agreement with Canada to that effect.[39] His "North American accord" later became the official North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified by President Bill Clinton.[40]

Reagan understood free trade as including the use of tariffs to protect American jobs and industry against foreign competition. He imposed a temporary 100% tariff on Japanese electronics as well as other tariffs on a variety of industrial products, which resulted in some free market advocates criticizing his policies as protectionist in practice.[41]


Reagan was opposed to socialized healthcare, universal health care, or publicly funded health care. In 1961, while still a member of the Democratic Party, Reagan voiced his opposition to single-payer healthcare in an 11-minute recording.[42] The idea was beginning to be advocated by the Democratic Party. In it, Reagan stated:

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It is very easy to describe a medical program as a humanitarian project ... Under the Truman administration, it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this ... In the last decade, 127 million of our citizens, in just ten years, have come under the protection of some privately-owned medical or hospital insurance. The advocates of [socialized healthcare], when you try to oppose it, challenge you on an emotional basis ... What can we do about this? Well you and I can do a great deal. We can write to our [ Congressmen, to our Senators. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms. And at the moment, the key issue is we do not want socialized medicine ... If you don't, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as well have known it in this country, until one day, as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism. If you don't do this and if I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free.[42][43]

Social Security[edit]

Reagan was in favor of making Social Security benefits voluntary.[44] According to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon: "I have no doubt that he shared the view that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme. He was intrigued with the idea of a voluntary plan that would have allowed workers to make their own investments. This idea would have undermined the system by depriving Social Security of the contributions of millions of the nation's highest-paid workers".[44]

Although Reagan was for a limited government and against the idea of a welfare state, Reagan continued to fully fund Social Security and Medicare because the elderly were dependent on those programs.

Mounting concerns that rising Social Security benefits were causing a long-term deficit and were growing too fast resulted in a bipartisan compromise in 1983. Brokered by conservative Alan Greenspan and liberal Congressman Claude Pepper, the agreement lowered benefits over the next 75 years and brought the system into balance. Key provisions included a gradual increase over 25 years in the retirement age from 65 to 67, to take account of longer life expectancy. (People could retire younger, but at a reduced rate of benefits.) Millions of people were added to the system, especially employees of state governments and of nonprofit organizations.[45][46]

New Deal[edit]

Reagan wrote that he was never trying to undo the New Deal as he admired President Franklin D. Roosevelt and voted for him all four times.[47]

Social policy[edit]


Reagan dismissed acid rain and proposals to halt it as burdensome to industry.[48] In the early 1980s, pollution had become an issue in Canada and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau objected to the pollution originating in U.S. factory smokestacks in the midwest.[49] The Environmental Protection Agency implored Reagan to make a major budget commitment to reduce acid rain, but Reagan rejected the proposal and deemed it as wasteful government spending.[49] He questioned scientific evidence on the causes of acid rain.[49]


Reagan was opposed to abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.[50] He was quoted as saying: "If there is a question as to whether there is life or death, the doubt should be resolved in favor of life". In 1982, he stated: "Simple morality dictates that unless and until someone can prove the unborn human is not alive, we must give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it is (alive). And, thus, it should be entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".[50]

As Governor of California, Reagan signed into law the Therapeutic Abortion Act in an effort to reduce the number of "back room abortions" performed in California.[51] As a result, approximately one million abortions would be performed and Reagan blamed this on doctors, arguing that they had deliberately misinterpreted the law.[50] Just when the law was signed, Reagan stated that had he been more experienced as Governor, he would not have signed it.[52] Reagan then declared himself to be pro-life.[50] During his presidency, though, Reagan never introduced legislation to congress regarding abortion.

Crime and capital punishment[edit]

Reagan was a supporter of capital punishment. As California's Governor, Reagan was beseeched to grant executive clemency to Aaron Mitchell, who had been sentenced to death for the murder of a Sacramento police officer, but he refused.[53] Mitchell was executed the following morning.[53] It was the only execution during his eight years as Governor—he had previously granted executive clemency to one man on death row who had a history of brain damage.[53]

He approved the construction of three new prisons as President in 1982 as recommended by Attorney General William French Smith.[53]


Reagan firmly sought opposition to illegal drugs.[54] He and his wife sought to reduce the use of illegal drugs through the Just Say No Drug Awareness campaign, an organization Nancy Reagan founded as first lady.[54] In a 1986 address to the nation by Ronald and Nancy Reagan, the President said: "[W]hile drug and alcohol abuse cuts across all generations, it's especially damaging to the young people on whom our future depends ... Drugs are menacing our society. They're threatening our values and undercutting our institutions. They're killing our children."[55]

Reagan also reacted to illegal drugs outside of Just Say No as the Federal Bureau Investigation added five hundred drug enforcement agents, began record drug crackdowns nationwide and established thirteen regional anti-drug task forces under Reagan.[54] In the address with the first lady, President Reagan reported on the progress of his administration, saying:

Thirty-seven Federal agencies are working together in a vigorous national effort, and by next year our spending for drug law enforcement will have more than tripled from its 1981 levels. We have increased seizures of illegal drugs. Shortages of marijuana are now being reported. Last year alone over 10,000 drug criminals were convicted and nearly $250 million of their assets were seized by the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration. And in the most important area, individual use, we see progress. In 4 years the number of high school seniors using marijuana on a daily basis has dropped from 1 in 14 to 1 in 20. The U.S. military has cut the use of illegal drugs among its personnel by 67 percent since 1980. These are a measure of our commitment and emerging signs that we can defeat this enemy.[55]

Civil rights[edit]


While running for President, Reagan pledged that if given the chance, he would appoint a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.[56] In 1981, he appointed Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female justice of the Supreme Court. As President, Reagan opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) because he thought that women were already protected by the 14th Amendment, although he had supported the amendment and offered to help women's groups achieve its ratification while serving as Governor of California.[57] Reagan pulled his support for the ERA shortly before announcing his 1976 candidacy for President. The 1976 Republican National Convention renewed the party's support for the amendment, but in 1980 the party qualified its 40-year support for ERA. Despite opposing the ERA, Reagan did not actively work against the amendment, which his daughter Maureen (who advised her father on various issues including women's rights) and most prominent Republicans supported.

Reagan established a "Fifty States Project" and councils and commissions on women designed to find existing statutes at the federal and state levels and eradicate them, the latter through a liaison with the various state governors. Elizabeth Dole, a Republican feminist and former Federal Trade Commissioner and advisor to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (who would go on to become Reagan's Transportation Secretary) headed up his women's rights project.


Reagan did not support many civil rights bills throughout the years.[58] He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964[59] and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.[58] In 1982, he signed a bill extending the Voting Rights Act for 25 years after a grass-roots lobbying and legislative campaign forced him to abandon his plan to ease that law's restrictions.[60] In 1988, he vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, but his veto was overridden by Congress. Reagan had argued that the legislation infringed on states' rights and the rights of churches and business owners.[61]

Reagan did not consider himself a racist and dismissed any attacks aimed at him relating to racism as attacks on his personal character and integrity.[58] In July 2019, newly unearthed tapes were released of a 1971 phone call between then Governor of California, Reagan, and President Richard Nixon. Angered by African delegates at the UN siding against the U.S. in a vote, Reagan stated, “To see those... monkeys from those African countries - damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!"[62]

There are critics who claim that Reagan gave his 1980 presidential campaign speech about states' rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi.[63] This also happens to be the place where three civil rights workers were killed in 1964.[64] However, Reagan had given it at the Neshoba County Fair in the unincorporated community of Neshoba, Mississippi, seven miles away. It was a popular campaigning spot; presidential candidates John Glenn and Michael Dukakis both campaigned there as well.[65][66]

He also said (while campaigning in Georgia) that Confederate President Jefferson Davis was "a hero of mine".[67] However, Reagan was offended that some accused him of racism.[67] In 1980, Reagan said the Voting Rights Act was "humiliating to the South",[68] although he later supported extending the Act.[69] He opposed Fair Housing legislation in California (the Rumford Fair Housing Act),[70] but in 1988 signed a law expanding the Fair Housing Act of 1968.[71] Reagan engaged in a policy of Constructive engagement with South Africa in spite of apartheid due to the nation being a valuable anti-communist ally, He opposed pressure from Congress and his own party for tougher sanctions until his veto was overridden.[72]

Reagan opposed the Martin Luther King holiday at first and signed it only after an overwhelming veto-proof majority (338 to 90 in the House of Representatives and 78 to 22 in the Senate) voted in favor of it.[73]


School prayer[edit]

Reagan was a supporter of prayer in U.S. schools.[74] On February 25, 1984 in his weekly radio address, he said: "Sometimes I can't help but feel the first amendment is being turned on its head. Because ask yourselves: Can it really be true that the first amendment can permit Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen to march on public property, advocate the extermination of people of the Jewish faith and the subjugation of blacks, while the same amendment forbids our children from saying a prayer in school?".[74] However, Reagan did not pursue a constitutional amendment requiring school prayer in public schools.[75] Reagan mischaracterized the Supreme Court decisions on school prayer, as no decision of the Court has ever held that children are prohibited from praying on their own. The effect of the school prayer decisions is to prohibit public school authorities from requiring children to participate in prayer.

Department of Education[edit]

Reagan was particularly opposed to the establishment of the Department of Education, which had occurred under his predecessor, President Jimmy Carter. This view stemmed from his less-government intervention views.[76] He had pledged to abolish the department, but did not pursue that goal as President.[76]

Energy and oil[edit]

As President, Reagan removed controls on oil prices, resulting in lower prices and an oil glut.[77] He did not reduce U.S. dependency on oil by imposing an oil-importing fee because of his opposition to taxation.[77] He trusted the free marketplace.[77] Lower global oil prices had the effect of reducing the income that the Soviet Union could earn from its oil exports.


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  69. ^ The Voting Rights Act of 1965, Garrine P. Laney, p. 34
  70. ^ Pillar of Fire, Taylor Branch, p. 242
  71. ^ The New York Times, Julie Johnson, "Reagan Signs Bill to Fight Housing Discrimination", September 14, 1988
  72. ^ Davies, J. E. (2008). Constructive Engagement? Chester Crocker and American Policy in South Africa, Namibia and Angola 1981-1988. Melton, Woodbridge, Suffolk: James Currey. ISBN 978-1847013040.
  73. ^ HR 3706, "A bill to amend title 5, United States Code, to make the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a legal public holiday", Library of Congress.
  74. ^ a b "Ronald Reagan: Radio Address to the Nation on Prayer in Schools". The American Presidency Project. February 25, 1984. Retrieved May 10, 2008.
  75. ^ Roberts, Steven V. (September 11, 1988). "The Nation; Reagan's Social Issues: Gone but Not Forgotten". The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2008.
  76. ^ a b "Ronald Reagan on Education". OnTheIssues.org. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  77. ^ a b c "Ronald Reagan on Energy & Oil". OnTheIssues.org. Retrieved 2008-05-15.

References and further reading[edit]

  • Appleby, Joyce; Alan Brinkley; James M. McPherson (2003). The American Journey. Woodland Hills, California: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-824129-1.
  • Bell, Coral. The Reagan Paradox: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1980s (1989) short overview by Australian scholar excerpt
  • Beschloss, Michael (2007). Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How they Changed America 1789–1989. Simon & Schuster.
  • Brands, H.W. Reagan: The Life (2015), scholarly biography; 810pp
  • Busch, Andrew E.; "Ronald Reagan and the Defeat of the Soviet Empire" in Presidential Studies Quarterly. 27#3 (1997). pp. 451+
  • Cannon, Lou (2000). President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 978-1-891620-91-1.; scholarly biography, 953pp
  • Gaddis, John Lewis (2005). The Cold War: A New History. The Penguin Press.
  • Hayward, Steven F. The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980–1989 (2009), strongly pro-Reagan
  • Johns, Andrew L., ed. A Companion to Ronald Reagan (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). xiv, 682 pp.; topical essays by scholars emphasizing historiography; contents free at many libraries
  • Kyvig, David. ed. Reagan and the World (1990), scholarly essays on foreign policy.
  • Pemberton, William E. (1998). Exit With Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan. ISBN 978-0-7656-0096-7.
  • Reagan, Ronald (1990). An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7434-0025-1., autobiography; primary source
  • Reeves, Richard (2005). President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-3022-3.
  • Schmertz, Eric J. et al. eds. Ronald Reagan and the World (1997) articles by scholars and officeholders online edition
  • Troy, Gil (2009). The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.