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Week 12

Theme 3 ‘Big Science’ and national identities

Week 12

Rockets, Politics and Public perceptions

Here we will focus closely on public perceptions of the Space Race and the superpowers funding it. If the US and the USSR used the Space Race as tools to form and project particular national identities, what exactly did those identities look like? And did both national and global audiences perceive each nation as they were intended to?


Seminar: Images Workshop

Using images from several different genres, we will assess both their content and their impact on public perceptions of ‘Big Science’ in general and the Space race in particular. We will also assess the strengths and weaknesses of each kind of image as a historical source. See the websites listed in your handout, and also this fascinating online tutorial from NASA:


Required Reading:

  • Walter McDougall, … The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic Books, 1985): Chapter 7, Chapter 11, ‘Part V: Introduction’ and Chapter 15.
  • Peter H. Smith ‘The Latin American Press and the Space Race’, Journal of Inter-American Studies, Vol. 6 (1964): 549-572 Latin American Press and the Space Race

Background/Further Reading:

John Agar, Science and Spectacle: The Work of Jodrell Bank in Postwar British Culture (London: Routledge, 1998)

J.T. Andrews, 'In search of a red cosmos: Space exploration, public culture, and Societ society' , (accessed and available 24/05/2011)

James T. Andrews, Science for the Masses: The Bolshevik State, Public Science, and the Popular Imagination in Soviet Russia, 1917–1934

(College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2003).

David Caute, The Dancer Defects. The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Ronald E. Doel ‘Evaluating Soviet Lunar Science in Cold War America’, Osiris, Vol. 7

Jussi M. Hanhimäki and Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Robert A. Jones, ‘They came in peace for all mankind: popular culture as a reflection of public attitudes to space’, Space Policy, February 2004; Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 45-48

John W Jordan, ‘Kennedy's Romantic Moon and Its Rhetorical Legacy for Space Exploration’ Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6: 2, (Summer 2003) pp. 209-231.

Abby J. Kinchy African Americans in the Atomic Age: Postwar Perspectives on Race and the Bomb, 1945–1967 Technology and Culture, April 2009; Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 291-315

Roger D Lanius, John M Logsdon, Robert W Smith, Reconsidering Sputnik: Forty Years Since the Soviet Satellite (London: Routledge, 2000).

Pamela E. Mack; ‘Space History’ Technology and Culture, ; Vol. 30, No. 3 1989 pp. 657-665

Walter A. McDougall ‘Technocracy and Statecraft in the Space Age--Toward the History of a Saltation’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Oct., 1982), pp. 1010-1040

Mike H Ryan, 'The role of national culture in Science-based technology transfer process' Comparative Technology Transfer and Society, 2 (2004)

Susan E. Reid, ‘The Khrushchev Kitchen: Domesticating the Scientific-Technological Revolution’, Journal of Contemporary History, 40: 2 (Apr., 2005), pp. 289-316.

Hugh R. Slotten Satellite Communications, Globalization, and the Cold War Technology and Culture, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 315-350

Peter H. Smith ‘The Latin American Press and the Space Race’, Journal of Inter-American Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4

Mark Walker, Science and Ideology: A Comparative History (London: Routledge, 2002)

Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Joseph G. Whelan The Press and Khrushchev's "Withdrawal" From the Moon Race The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer, 1968), pp. 233-250

Audra J. Wolfe ‘Germs in Space: Joshua Lederberg, Exobiology, and the Public Imagination, 1958-1964’ Isis, Vol. 93, No. 2


Additional Resources:

Matthew Godwin ‘The Cold War and the early space race’ accessible at: Note that this website, from the Institute of Historical Research, london, contains links to a whole set of commissioned articles, as well as a host of hand-picked websites and other resources. If you plan to write a paper on this topics, I highly recommend this page as a starting point, alongside your module readings.