Archive | October, 2014

Everything Old Is New Again

30 Oct

This article on War Is Boring piqued my interest a couple of days ago. Not so much the fact that Argentina might by  a few Swedish fighter planes, but the bit about the US government potentially barring the sale.

What, you might well ask, has this to do with anything? Well, it provides and interesting contemporary connection to and article I’ve just submitted to an esteemed scholarly journal for peer review. Starting in the 1970s, the Indian Air Force (IAF) sought to purchase a new ‘Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft’ (DPSA). The competitors for this lucrative contract were Britain (with the Anglo-French Jaguar design), France (with the Mirage), and Sweden (with the Viggen, predecessor of the aircraft that Argentina might be buying).

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Teaching the Nuclear Cold War: Week 6, nuclear popular culture

27 Oct

This was, without a doubt, one of the classes I was looking most forward to taking: how nuclear weapons affected popular culture in the 1950s and 1960s. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know that I’m a big fan of using The War Game (Dir: Peter Watkins, 1965) as a teaching tool and discussion point. Things turned out as something of a mixed bag, however.

We’re just over a week away from the hand-in date for the big course essay, and this is quite reasonably dominating students minds. Hence, there was perhaps not quite as much preparation done as there normally would be. That being said, we had some excellent presentations on a variety of topics: civil defence and popular culture, the ‘apocalyptic imagination’ in 1950s science fiction movies, comparisons of The War Game and A Day Called X, and so on and so forth. In the main, I’ve been very impressed with the standard of presentations on this course. They have generally been thoughtful, well put together, and imaginative.

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Teaching The Nuclear Cold War: Weeks 4 and 5, US-UK relations & the Berlin and Cuban crises

21 Oct

An omnibus edition this time round, because of extreme busy-ness last week!

Week four of the course saw us tackle the ups and downs of the Anglo-American nuclear relationship. From the sudden cut-off because of the McMahon Act to the restoration to full cooperation under the Mutual Defence Agreement, nuclear relations between London and Washington were never that smooth.

This aside, one of the most fascinating aspects of week 3 was our examination of the 1955 Strath Report, and it’s this I’d like to concentrate on. Few university courses use the report in full as a primary source, but I think it – and the reactions it provokes – provide immensely instructive insights into British nuclear thinking in the 1950s. In brief, the Strath Report argued that with the advent of the hydrogen bomb, British society – in its 1950s form – could not survive nuclear war. Ministers responded to this with horror, recoiling from many of William Strath’s recommendations to increase survivability. Likewise, the government declined to make public the findings of Strath.

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Teaching the Nuclear Cold War: Week 3, the nuclear 1950s

6 Oct

From our beginnings with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the origins of the Cold War, and the incoherence of early US atomic policy, last week we moved on to the 1950s: the era of the Korean War, Massive Retaliation, and (of course) the hydrogen bomb. One thing that has really struck me is the interest in the catastrophic Castle Bravo test. While I expected that it might generate a little interest, the enthusiasm exhibited by some students has really surprised me.(1)

Student presentations continue to impress, with some very strong ten-minute papers on key subjects. The breadth and depth of scholarship and sources addressed by these very brief presentations is remarkable. We had examinations of the reasons for US non-use of atomic weapons during the Korean War, the role of race issues in nuclear policy, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace‘ initiative, and the impact of Castle Bravo on Japanese-American relations.(2)

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