This course presents a global perspective on the history and politics of nuclear weapons. It examines the science and technology of these weapons; the politics of their growth, spread, and control; environmental and health consequences of their development; and the cultural responses and social movements they have engendered. We begin with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Next we examine the unfolding of the Cold War, focusing particularly on the superpower arms race and exploring both U.S. and Soviet perspectives on these developments. Why and how have different states pursued nuclear weapons development? We first pose this as a general question and then move on to case studies. Along the way, we also examine the health and environmental consequences of uranium mining and nuclear testing, as well as the history of anti-nuclear protest movements.
The course aims to introduce students to the complex, multi-layered history of nuclear policy issues. Students will be challenged to move past their political beliefs and ideologies (whatever these may be) in order to understand decisions and developments in historical context, and in relation to different cultural and national perspectives. They will be exposed to a variety of conceptual tools and theories to help them make sense of the material, drawing not only on the discipline of history but also on political science theory and anthropology.
Weekly reading and reading responses. Two short papers (based on lectures, the common assigned reading, plus a modest amount of additional research.) Two midterms. No final exam.
The course assumes no prior knowledge — students of all backgrounds are welcome. It is of special interest to students in History, International Studies, Enviornmental Studies, Political Science, Public Policy, Science and Technology Studies, Public Health, and some fields of science and engineering, but ANYONE can take it!
Lectures will draw film clips and images in order to give students a greater sense of immediacy about the history they’re studying. Discussion sections will offer students an opportunity to dissect primary documents and readings in detail.