Skating on the Edge of the Unthinkable: The Nuclear Arms Race
From Hiroshima to the fall of the Berlin Wall and on to the current day, the world has lived in fear of annihilation by nuclear weapons. The period saw the building of over fifty thousand nuclear weapons, thousands of bombers and missiles, fallout shelters, and a society that thought it could see the end of humans on earth. Atomic fear affected, or even drove, popular culture and world politics throughout the period. This course will study nuclear history from the Manhattan Project forward. Topics include the technology of nuclear weapons, military and political decisions that kept the arms race going, the difficulties of arms control, close calls with disaster (e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis), and the impact on popular culture. Questions include whether nuclear weapons have prevented war, what to do about today’s nuclear arsenals, and what the past can tell us about understanding current nuclear crises in North Korea and Iran and current disarmament discussions.
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