IDS 101 - College Colloquium - Fall 2010, Prof.
Skating on the Edge of the Unthinkable: The Nuclear Arms Race
From Hiroshima to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world lived in fear
of annihilation by nuclear weapons. Suspicion led to the building of
over fifty thousand nuclear weapons, thousands of bombers and missiles,
fallout shelters, and a society that thought it could be the last
generation 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 Hiroshima 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 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
The course will be divided into four main units, with a fifth topic spread throughout the term:
Required texts, available in the campus bookstore:
- This is the way the world ends, or What was everyone afraid of?
Two widely read/viewed narratives about a final nuclear war.
- The dawn of the nuclear age
The building of the first bomb, the decision to use it, and its effects.
- Strategy in a new world
How nuclear weapons changed military planning and world politics in the 50s and 60s.
- Crises and the growing peace movement
How the Cuban Missile Crisis and Able Archer unfolded, and the concurrent growth of the peace movement.
- "After" the cold war
Nuclear proliferation, current events, and a possible restart of the arms race with different adversaries.
Nevil Shute, On The Beach, Random House, ISBN 978-0-307-47399-8
Ronald Powaski, March to Armageddon, Oxford University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-1950-4411-8
John Hersey, Hiroshima, Vintage Books/Random House, 1989, ISBN 0-679-72103-7
Fred Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon, Stanford University Press, 1983, ISBN 978-0804718844
Sheldon Stern, The Week the World Stood Still, Stanford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8047-5077-7
Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth, Stanford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8047-3702-9
Diana Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual, 4th ed,, St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Films and video (some of the films will be in the evening)
- Duck and Cover, Dir. Anthony Rizzo, 1952.
- Dr. Strangelove, Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1964.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still, Dir. Robert Wise, 1951.
- The Atomic Cafe, Dir. Loader, Rafferty, Rafferty, 1982. [Excerpts]
- "The Shelter", The Twilight Zone, Dir. Lamont Johnson, Sept. 29, 1961.
- Thirteen Days, Dir. Roger Donaldson, 2000.
- The Day After, Dir. Nicholas Meyer, 1983. (We may skip this one).
Class meetings begin during opening days as scheduled by the
Opening Days program, then continue MWF 12:40-1:40[corrected Aug 1], ending the week of
- "The Decision to Use the
[Secretary of War] Henry Stimson, Harper's Magazine, 194 (February 1947) [Excerpts]
- Statement on the Bombing of Hiroshima, President Harry S. Truman, August 7, 1945.
- The Effects of Nuclear War, [U.S. Congressional] Office of Technology Assessment, May, 1979 [Chapter II].
- Nuclear Weapons design, Wikipedia:
- The Bomb for my Pillow, Gregg
Ainsworth, a memoir of growing up during the “hotter” years of the nuclear arms race.
- Dr. Strangelove's America, Margot Henriksen, University of California Press, 1997. [Chapter 3 on WISE]
- NSC-68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security, National Security Council, April 14, 1950.
[Particularly sections VIIIa,b, IXc,d, and conclusion]
- On Thermonuclear War, Herman Kahn, Princeton University Press, 1960. [Chapter 1 on WISE]
- Numerous current event news items, see course links
|Discussion participation, includes assigned "preparation" homework, |
a journaling assignment on WISE, and a small individualized research assignment
|Three assigned thesis papers: 13%,18%,24% respectively
Last Modified March 30, 2010.
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