Archive | American History RSS feed for this section

The United States and Nuclear Proliferation: An Undergraduate Course

10 Sep
Above: Donald Trump, noted non-proliferation theorist and proponent of sane of foreign policy positions.

Above: Donald Trump, noted non-proliferation theorist and proponent of sane foreign policy positions.

With debate about the Iranian nuclear deal still raging and everyone and their dog expressing an opinion (no matter how ill-informed, reactionary, or just plain stupid it might be), my new undergraduate course is alarmingly well-timed.

This year, I’m offering a new 4MA (fourth year honours, full year) course entitled The United States and the Problem of Nuclear Proliferation, 1945-2015 (hereafter USPNP). An outgrowth of my research interests and doctoral work, USPNP is my first attempt at a year-long course for the undergraduates in their final year. The class is relatively small (12-15 students) and there will have an intense focus on discussing and debating primary, secondary, and theoretical materials.

Continue reading

Nuclear Fallout on the American History Too! Podcast

23 Dec

Magazine Fallout Shelter Rendering ( coverpage )As part of our ongoing podcast series, Mark and I recently recorded an episode on the origins, importance, and public awareness (and lack thereof) of nuclear fallout in the 1940s and 50s.

In the podcast, we managed to cover a fair bit of ground. We talked about the origins of ‘the bomb’ (wherein I waffle about Einstein, Frisch, Peirels, etc), the differences between the A-bomb and the H-bomb, the 1954 Castle Bravo test, the Strath report, and then Mark cuts me off as I hit my stride about The War Game! To be fair, he’s much better at keeping the podcast running to time than I am!

It was fun to talk about something that is within my specialism, having previously discussed colonial-era slavery, Andrew Jackson, and the Gilded Age, amongst other things! As always, if there’s any feedback you have, please do let me know. You can find all of our podcasts on our Podbean website, or you can get them through iTunes.

The American History Too! Podcast

2 Nov

One thing I completely forgot to mention over the past few weeks. my colleague Mark McLay and I have started a podcast. It’s called American History Too! and is aimed at undergraduates and others interested in US and international history.

The name is a play on the American History 2 pre-honours course that we both teach on at the University of Edinburgh. Although, it has to be said, the podcast is in no way associated with the university or the course.

So far, we’ve covered colonial era slavery, the creation and ratification of the Constitution, and President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Next up: the Civil War.

Archaeology of the Future

3 Jun

A recent post on the ill-fated Safeguard ABM system┬áby Matthew Gault over at War is Boring pointed me towards some stunning photographs held by the Library of Congress. Matthew’s article does a great job of explaining the background to these eerie, haunting images. Whoever the official photographer was, they certainly had an eye for an arresting image.

East oblique of missile site control building, with better view of exhaust (the taller columns) and intake shafts – Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Continue reading

Invisible Peak and Soviet Ice Hockey: Cold War Documentaries

18 May

These videos have been doing the rounds lately, both very interesting in different ways.

Invisible Peak chronicles the Cold War (and after) history of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Mount Tamalpais and the campaign to have it restored to a pre-USAF station state.

Mt. Tamalpais, sentinel peak of the San Francisco Bay Area, is considered sacred by many… native and non-native alike. In 1950, the military bulldozed the highest peak of the mountain to build an Air Force Station tasked with directing jet interceptors and short range Nike nuclear missiles against the potential threat of Russian nuclear bombers. By 1980 the base was obsolete and summarily closed. The military literally walked away from dozens of structures, leaving behind a huge toxic mess on the mountain. Through the use of historical footage, 3D reconstruction, interviews and breathtaking timelapse cinematography, this 20-minute film, narrated and co-written by Peter Coyote, explores the history of Tam’s West Peak and how local citizens have been fighting to restore their mountain to a natural state.

The film is only twenty minutes long and well worth watching as it explores some of the legacies of the Cold War era.

With all the hoopla of the Cannes Film Festival currently ongoing, one of the entrants that I’m very keen to see is the documentary Red Army. It focuses on the mighty Soviet ice hockey teams of the 1970s and 80s and the career of the great Slava Fetisov. Given the significance of ice hockey within the context of the Cold War, it should be fascinating viewing.

 

Barry and the Bombers

21 Apr

Following on from A.Q. Khan’s angry letter about British television, here’s another snippet that didn’t make it into the final version of the thesis.

Throughout the mid-to-late 1970s, successive US administrations attempted to use arms sales as a means of shifting Pakistan from the nuclear path. During this period, the weapon system that was always a major sticking point was the advanced A-7 attack aircraft. The Pakistanis wanted it. The Americans didn’t want them to have it. Then they did. Then they didn’t. Then they did. And so on ad infinitum.

Continue reading

Teaching American History: My pre-20th Century Syllabus

31 Mar

The last few weeks have been somewhat busy: marking, writing a draft chapter of the thesis, presenting said chapter at our American History Workshop here at the university (which was excellent and very useful.) So, I have miserably failed in my aim of making at least one substantive post a week. Oh well. I’m sure my two readers will be most upset.

As I’ve mentioned before when talking about my 20th century syllabus, I currently teach on the highly regarded American History 2 (AH2) course here at the University of Edinburgh.(1) Lecturing is carried out by the senior academic staff, while the majority of tutoring is carried out by postgraduates (here referred to as tutors. The equivalent in the US and other countries would be the teaching assistant.) Although there is a broad structure set out for each semester, tutors are at liberty to modify this as they see fit and according to their own particular expertise.

This can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the freedom to arrange tutorials according to your own preferences and the needs of particular classes is great. On the other hand, it involves additional work when compared to other courses (although, it must be said, this is by no means an onerous workload.)

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: