Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week Five - Atomic Society: Science and the Bomb

In an era of nuclear nightmares, science was to occupy a central position within Cold War culture. This seminar explores the subject from two angles. First it examines the relationship between science and ideology: a fundamental dilemma for the scientists of the era. Science was supposed to be value free. But could scientists close their eyes to the inhumanity which could result from their research? Could scientists be above ideology and reach across the division of the blocs? Could science show the way beyond ideology and towards a more rational running of society? The second part of the seminar explores popular attitudes towards science in this era. Did members of the public see in bold scientific advances like nuclear technology something which they could admire as above ideology. Or did this period see a distancing of the public from science, as the latter withdrew into the secrecy of the military-industrial complex and became integrally associated with the threat of nuclear holocaust?

- Could science be value-free in the Cold War era?

- How did Cold War societies deal with nuclear fear?

Core reading

Visvanathan, Shiv, ‘Atomic Physics: The Career of an Imagination’, in Ashis Nandy (ed.), Science, Hegemony and Violence: A Requiem for Modernity (OUP: Delhi, 1988), 113-66. Q.175.5.S2
Jones, Greta, Science, Politics and the Cold War (Routledge, 1988) [An excellent short account of the politicisation of science in the cold war. Pays particular attention to Britain. Utilises Modern Records Centre, Warwick: Association of Scientific Workers Papers; World Federation of Scientific Workers Papers.] PM

The Scientific Establishment

Bernal, J. D., The Social Function of Science (1939) [Seminal analysis from British communist]. Q.175.5.B3
Damms, Richard U., ‘James Killian, the Technological Capabilities Panel, and the Emergence of President Eisenhower’s “Scientific-Technological Elite’, Diplomatic History, 24 (2000), 57-78.
Goodchild, Peter, Edward Teller: The Real Dr. Strangelove (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004). QC.16.T3
Graham, Loren R., Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History (Cambridge: CUP, 1993). Q.125.G7
Josephson, Paul R., New Atlantis Revisited: Akademgorodok, the Siberian City of Science (Princeton, NJ: PUP, 1997). PM
Krementsov, Nikolai, Stalinist Science (Princeton: PUP, 1997). PM
Manzione, Joseph, ‘“Amusing and Amazing and Practical and Military”: The Legacy of Scientific Internationalism in American Foreign Policy, 1945-1963’, Diplomatic History, 24 (2000), 21-56.
Marsh, Rosalind J., Soviet Fiction since Stalin: Science, Politics and Literature (London: Croom Helm, 1986). PG.3097.8.M2
Russell, Betrand, The Impact of Science on Society (1952) [Analysis of relationship between the scientific society and democracy]. Q.175.5.R8
Teller, Edward, The Legacy of Hiroshima (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1962). [A defence of science by the father of the H-bomb.] D.767.25.H6
Tietge, David J., Flash Effect: Science and the Rhetorical Origins of Cold War America (Athens, Ohio, 2002). PM
Wang, Jessica, American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism and the Cold War (North Carolina, 1999). Q.125.W2
Werskey, Gary, The Visible College (London: Allen Lane, 1978) [Study of the British left and science. Main focus is interwar period, though final chapters go beyond.] Q.141.W3

Nuclear Fear

Boyer, Paul L., By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (Chapel Hill, NC, 1994). E.813.B6
Chapman, James, ‘The BBC and the Censorship of The War Game (1965), Journal of Contemporary History, 41/1 (2006), 75-94.
De Groot, Gerard J., The Bomb: A Life (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004). UF.767.D3
Grossman, Andrew D., Neither Dead nor Red: Civilian Defense and American Political Development during the Early Cold War (New York and London: Routledge, 2001). UA.927.G7
Hennessy, Peter, The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War (London: Penguin, 2002). UA.647.H3
Hersey, John, Hiroshima (1946). [Documentary account which shaped many images of atomic attack.] D.767.25.H6
Holloway, David, Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1994). UA.770.H6
Jungk, Robert, Children of the Ashes: The People of Hiroshima (1959; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963). [Similar to Hersey, based on interviews with survivors.] PM
Langer, Mark, ‘Why the Atom is Our Friend: Disney, General Dynamics and USS Nautillus’, Art History, 18 (1995), 63-96.
Lifton, Robert J. and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: A Half Century of Denial (New York: Putnam’s, 1995). PM
McEnaney, Laura, Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday Life in the Fifties (Princeton, NJ: PUP, 2000). UA.927.M2
Oakes, Guy, The Imaginary War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture (New York: OUP, 1994). [The psychological education of the American public to cope with nuclear fear.] UA.927.I6
Rose, Kenneth D., One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture (New York: NYUP, 2001). UA.927.R6
Scott, Alison M. and Christopher D. Geist (eds), The Writing on the Cloud: American Culture Confronts the Atomic Bomb (Lanham, Md.: UAP, 1997). E.812.5.W7
Schwenger, Peter, ‘Writing the Unthinkable’, Critical Inquiry, 13 (1986), 33-48 [Problems of representing nuclear holocaust: analysis of novels].
Weart, Spencer R., Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (Cambridge, Mass.: HUP, 1988). PM
Winkler, Alan M., Life under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom (New York: OUP, 1993). UA.23.W4