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Banning Panorama: January 27, 2016

13 Jan

On the 27th of this month, I’ll be giving a paper as part of Glasgow Caledonian University’s regular History Seminar. This is especially pleasing for me, as GCU was where I spent my undergrad years in the 1990s.

GCU_Seminar_27_01

The paper is all about a component of my current postdoctoral research, which examines attempts by the Thatcher and Reagan governments to influence domestic and international public perceptions of intelligence and nuclear issues during the 1980s and the global media’s responses to this.

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Recent Things Elsewhere

21 Dec

Just a quick roundup of stuff I have done on other sites in recent months.

The American History Too! podcast continues to go from strength to strength. Recently, Mark and I (and our excellent guests) have discussed the 1925 Scopes Trial, Irish-Americans and the American Civil War, and women, murder, and criminal justice in late nineteenth/early twentieth century America.

The marvellous Pubs & Publications blog (run by graduate students at the University of Edinburgh’s School of History, Classics, and Archaeology) asked if I could submit a guest post on the year after finishing the PhD.

At the British Association for American Studies United States Studies Online blog, I’ve contributed a couple of things over the past few months. I talked about the ‘Islamic bomb’ for the excellent Islam in America feature, and about teaching nuclear history for the Teaching America feature.

Teaching the Nuclear Cold War: Week 10, 1980s nuclear culture

25 Nov

threads_rtcoverHaving taught classes on The War Game before, I was genuinely fascinated to see if teaching a class that involved the grim and disturbing Threads would be any different.

The fascinating thing about this seminar was the variety of opinions on the film. Some found it deeply disturbing and moving, others realised the impact it must have had, but were less shocked by the visceral imagery and storyline.

One thing that the class allowed me to do was articulate why I ended up teaching a course like this. Threads had a major (and terrifying) impact on me from a young age, and that terror is one of the reasons I ended up studying nuclear issues: a need to understand what made me so scared as a kid. Threads, the Greenham Common protests, post-apocalyptic cinema in general, and the news media all had a significant impact on me growing up. Teaching a course such as this is an outgrowth of that.

The image to the right scared the holy living hell out me. In fact, it still does. The image of the bandaged, badly burned, rifle-wielding traffic warden is one of the enduring images from the film. There’s something peculiarly British about this: the traffic warden as almost universally despised low-level authority figure, made in this case literally faceless and carrying the ultimate symbol of post-apocalyptic authority.

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A.Q. Khan, ‘Death of A Princess,’ and Angry Letters

16 Apr

Some things that you find in archives are just downright odd. One curious find that, in the end, did not make it into my thesis was a rambling letter in tiny script that I found in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office records at The National Archives, Kew. This letter was written by none other than Abdul Qadeer ‘A.Q.’ Khan, probably the most famous nuclear proliferator of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

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