Tag Archives: nuclear weapons

The Heights of the Cold War

3 Dec
Above: The height of Cold War satire.

Above: The height of Cold War satire. Slim Pickens as USAF Major ‘King’ Kong rides the bomb in Dr Strangelove.

A recent article in the Daily Mail, plus a subsequent Twitter conversation, has provoked me to address this blog posts to journalists everywhere. This is not some academic lecturing from his lofty ivory tower (it’s actually made of brick, and my office is only on the first floor), rather a plea for a little bit of historical thinking.

Daily Mail journalist Matt Hunter examines on a tense standoff between the air forces of the United States and the Soviet Union in October, 1986. Hunter notes that “The incident above the Barents Sea, near Soviet waters, took place between a US Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and a MiG-31, the premier Soviet interceptor aircraft, at the height of the Cold War 30 years ago.”

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Nuclear Terrorism in the Modern Seminar Room

9 Dec
Time

I have no idea what that cover image is actually meant to be.

Next semester, I will be making statements supporting the proliferation network of A Q Khan, the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb‘, and and means of conducting ‘nuclear terrorism‘. Give me a few weeks and I’ll have MI5 at my office door with a set of handcuffs and a whole series of  awkward questions. Or not, as is probably the case

Of course, I don’t actually agree with A Q Khan’s self-aggrandising nuclear proliferation motives. The idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ is complicated and multilayered.(1) And I don’t support the use of nuclear weapons by anyone. But, I will be making ‘controversial’ statements in order to stir up debate and provoke discussion in my seminars for The United States and the Conundrum of Nuclear Proliferation.

I mention this because of the UK’s ongoing Prevent Strategy (hereafter just ‘Prevent’)to combat ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’. Universities, colleges, and schools are now – for David Cameron’s government at least – the front line in a battle against ‘extremist ideologies’. Prevent aims to cover all ‘extreme ideologies’, but in the current climate we all know what they’re really talking about.

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The Misrepresentation of Nuclear Things

31 Jan
Front cover of Metro, Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

Front cover of Metro, Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

This post was inspired the coincidence of two things, one good, one depressingly bad. Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Gabrielle Hecht’s excellent article ‘The Power of Nuclear Things‘ (the article kindly and conveniently made available to all on Prof. Hecht’s personal website).[1] Secondly, I most certainly did not enjoy the sight of free newsheet Metro’s front page on Wednesday January 28 (see image to the right).

It’s not often you get to bring together the work of an esteemed scholar and the comment-baiting scare quotes of a – let’s not mince words here – paper that is down-market of the Daily Mail (if such a thing is possible).[2] That being said, I would suggest that Hecht’s analysis (more on that below) offers us a useful critical framework for understanding this faintly ridiculous front page.

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Teaching the Nuclear Cold War: Conclusions

13 Jan

NCWIt’s well over a month now since the conclusion of my first foray into teaching honours-level history (and only a couple of days until I start teaching my second course). Time to take stock, to assess, and to examine the good and the bad. In this post, I aim to summarise the course, look at how things ended up when compared to how I imagined they would, and think about ways to improve the course for future offerings. Hopefully, this reflection and analysis will make me a better teacher and make the course better in future.

The Good

I was delighted to see students responding to my enthusiasm for nuclear history, engaging with subjects they had never studied before, and coming to their own considered conclusions. Furthermore, I was very pleased to see from the feedback that the course had encouraged many students to think more about contemporary nuclear issues and how they relate to the Cold War.

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Nuclear Identity Symposium, April 2015

8 Jan

greenham_1985577bI’m delighted to announce a Call for Papers for a symposium I’m organising!

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Nuclear Identity will take place in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology (SHCA) at the University of Edinburgh on April 10, 2015. The event is co-hosted by the SHCA’s Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict and the British International Studies Association (BISA).

The workshop will be limited to 20 participants and short presentations of up to nine papers to stimulate discussion. The theme of ‘nuclear identity’ is broadly defined and can include (but is by no means limited to) how states, groups, and individuals identify as nuclear or anti-nuclear, how various forms of identity can be imposed or withdrawn, or how nuclear issues themselves are identified, codified, and analysed.

The purpose is to explore contemporary thinking on the past, present, and future of nuclear weapons from critical perspectives, foster links and dialogue between like-minded academics and research students, and stimulate collective thinking on a critical nuclear research agenda. The workshop welcomes participants from all disciplines, including (but not limited to) anthropology, history, international relations, political science, and sociology.

Postgraduate students are particularly welcomed, either presenting papers or as non-presenting attendees. Limited funds are available to postgraduate scholars to provide travel bursaries to defray the cost of attendance.

The full CfP can be found on the BISA Global Nuclear Order Working Group blog. If you have any queries, please do get in touch with me either here on the blog, or by email at: mcraig [at] staffmail [dot] ed [dot] ac [dot] uk

 

Teaching the Nuclear Cold War: Week 11, The Final Countdown

12 Dec

The_Final_Countdown_singleThe hectic nature of the end of semester means that this penultimate post about the nuclear Cold War course has been more than a little bit delayed. Apologies for that.

Our final class examined the end of the Cold War and the influence of nuclear arms (and related issues) on the conclusion of nearly five decades of confrontation. Did ‘the atom’ have any influence? In the big scheme of things, did the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – as an example of arms control – actually do anything to help? I argued (and many students agreed) that the end of the Cold War is in fact even more complicated than the beginning of the Cold War. Disentangling the various threads (no pun intended) is one of the challenges of studying this period.

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Teaching the Nuclear Cold War: Week 8, the 1970s

10 Nov

IMG_0004A slightly shorter than usual commentary on the Nuclear Cold War class, as I’m currently immersed in marking semester essays for…my Nuclear Cold war class.

In week 8 we examined arms control in the 1970s, obviously looking at stuff like SALT, ABM, the PNW treaty, and so on and so forth. Before we got stuck into that, I had each class split into two groups and – on whiteboards – draw a big mind-map of ‘the nuclear Cold War’ up to 1970. Like the dullard I am, I only photographed the two from my afternoon class.

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