HOTCUS Conference 2012

21 Dec

The other day I received notification from the organising committee of the 2012 Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) conference that my paper proposal had been accepted. My intention is to discuss US-UK motivations towards the Pakistani nuclear issue in 1978-79, looking a how ideas of democracy, civilisation, and religion influenced their stances alongside the more traditional geopolitical and Realist conceptions of international relations. Here’s the abstract:

During 1978 and into 1979 it became apparent to Western observers that Pakistan was engaging in covert efforts to produce the raw material for nuclear weapons. In light of this, the United States and United Kingdom jointly engaged in diplomatic strategies aimed at curbing the emergent Pakistani nuclear programme. Using recently declassified and previously unseen sources from both sides of the Atlantic, this paper argues that US-UK cooperation in the (ultimately fruitless) attempt to prevent Pakistani development of nuclear weapons capability was far closer and more involved than traditionally suggested.

This paper adopts new approaches to the study of nuclear non-proliferation. Prior evaluations of this period have tended towards analyses grounded in the realist school of thought, where concrete interests are paramount. Whilst not denying the intrinsic importance of what the late Peter Clausen termed “hard-headed calculations of national interest,” this paper offers a much wider-ranging analysis, exploring the intersection of ideas of nuclear hegemony, identity, civilization, and democracy with US-UK views and actions on the perceived spread of nuclear weapons.

This paper will therefore offer a new interpretation of the non-proliferation relationship that existed between the United States and the United Kingdom during the late 1970s. Using the case study of Pakistan, it will show that Western motivations for non-proliferation activity went beyond rational calculations of interest and security and extended into less concrete, less easily rationalised notions.

So that gives me just about six months to work on this. The overarching aim is to make this the core of a chapter of my Ph.D. Research has – obviously –  already begun into the topic, mainly through the declassified documents provided by the always excellent National Security Archive Nuclear Vault. The two key documentary sources here are the United States and Pakistan’s Quest for the Bomb and Non-papers and Demarches (which I mentioned briefly in this entry.) Some interesting subsidiary information also comes from China, Pakistan, and the Bomb and from the Digital National Security Archive. The next step is research into the UK side of things.

This is the part that I find most exciting at the moment. While there are many declassified US documents, little work has been done into the UK part of the equation. My trip to The National Archives at Kew in January should go some way towards balancing the documentary scales.

Then there is the delving into the US archives of the Carter Library in April/May of 2012. Hopefully that will provide further information on the situation and help to flesh out the details. Which might lead to another trip to Kew!

All in all, it’s a fascinating topic and I’m delighted to have the chance to talk about my research in front of a receptive audience. Not that it isn’t a nerve-wracking prospect. My previous conference experience has been fairly small-scale, whereas HOTCUS is a much bigger proposition. Still, it should all come good in the end.

One Response to “HOTCUS Conference 2012”


  1. HOTCUS 2013 | theatomicage - January 20, 2013

    […] Conference. This time it takes place at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle. Last year, my paper was focussed on a very tight time period. This year, I’ve chosen to go a little bit broader […]

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