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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.

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Confronting the Conspiratorial

1 Mar

I never imagined when I started this Ph.D that would have to confront conspiracy theory as part of the project. Just goes to show how much I know. Not that my topic area involves any of the big conspiracy theories: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Kennedy assassination, or allegedly faked moon landings to name but three of the most widespread and popular.

The condensed version of the theory that impinges on my research goes like this: Western governments (mainly the U.S. and to a lesser extent the UK) willfully looked the other way when it came to the Pakistani nuclear programme and in some cases actively encouraged nuclear proliferation amongst states that would become (or were) enemies of those self same Western nations.

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B.B.C. M.A.D. W.T.F?

18 Feb

It is always gratifying to see items on your chosen specialism being offered by one of the major news media outlets. In this case, the BBC website offers an article looking at the history and influence of the concept of Mutual (or mutually, no one can seem to agree on which is best) Assured Destruction (MAD.)

For me, the article highlights the problem with writing in a popular medium for a diverse audience. The main issue is the need to find a schtick to hang things on, in this case the “50th anniversary of MAD.” But, that’s nonsense. John von Neumann came up with the MAD concept in the 1950s and it was further refined by Herman Kahn in On Thermonuclear War in 1960. Even a cursory browse of Wikipedia will bring that up!

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Why Should You Be Interested In Nuclear History?

23 Jan

There is a degree of arrogance involved in publishing your thoughts at random on the internet. A vain assumption that there are people out there who will be interested in what you have to say (and as an aside: hello and welcome to both of you!) This is perhaps even more apparent when you are dealing with the obscurities and super-specific geekiness of academic history. One reason for this particular blog is the hope that it might interest an audience outside of what is often called ‘the academy.’

That leads into the main question: why in heavens name should you be interested in nuclear history? I for one am not going to pretend that I have all – or even a minority of – the answers to this question. But, I’m enough of a bloviator to think that I might be able to stumble towards a few basic thoughts on the matter.

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Faltering Steps

1 Dec

One of the daunting aspects of starting a doctorate is the constant, niggling fear that somebody, somewhere, is doing exactly the same thing as you. This low-grade paranoia seems to be par for the course unless you are sufficiently confident that your topic area is obscure enough that nobody could possibly be researching the same thing.

My initial proposal was to examine how issues of race an racism might (or might not) have affected U.S. nuclear planning in the Asian region. I would do this by studying in detail a number of case studies, most likely the Korean War and the First and Second Taiwan Straits Crises. Little did I know…

Just after I began my Ph.D, I was informed that a book had recently appeared that covered very similar ground to me. Scratch that, it covered precisely what I was planning on doing. After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945 – 1965 (Cambridge, 2010) by Professor Matthew Jones is an excellent piece of work that appeared in the lull between my Ph.D proposal being accepted and my starting at the university (1).

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