After the introductory Muellerising of last week, this time we really get down to business. Our class this week looked at the totally non-controversial and historiographically non-debateable questions of the “atomic diplomacy” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic bomb as a causal factor in the onset of the Cold War, and the direction (or lack thereof) of American nuclear policy in the immediate aftermath of World War II. So, no room for debate and discussion there then.
This was also the first week where students had the chance to give ten-minute presentations on topics within our general theme for the week. It’s always a tough gig going first, and I’m glad to say that all of our presenters set a high standard. In both classes we had someone examine the “atomic diplomacy” question and someone else look at the bomb and the onset of the Cold War. In all cases, the presentations usefully stimulated debate and set the tone for the ensuing conversations.
You have to hand it to John Mueller. Decades on from the original publication, ‘The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons‘ still has the power to provoke thought and debate.
The first session of my nuclear Cold War course was – as these things are – initially taken up with the kind of administrative tedium that undergraduate students so frequently have to suffer in the first week of teaching. That aside, I attempted to outline why this course exists, pondering some of my own research interests, and musing on what future archaeologists might think of the detritus of the nuclear Cold War.
This coming Friday, my honours (3rd/4th year undergraduate) course in the nuclear history of the Cold War begins. It’s very exciting to have so many students signed up and demonstrating such enthusiasm for the subject. As I’ve mentioned before, the course starts by questioning the relevance of nuclear weapons to the Cold War, then progressing in a broadly chronological fashion through the decades.
As part of the teaching and learning process – and as something of a personal aide memoire – I plan to blog about the classes each week. I’ll primarily be thinking about the debates that took place, how the seminar worked, and where the discussion went. I’m particularly keen for students to given open, frank feedback here on the blog as part of an ongoing conversation about our joint learning.