Doomsday Books

DOOMSDAYStill wandering through the nuclear wastelands… (see also here, here and here).  Not surprisingly, there is a considerable literature on the United States and nuclear war, but much less on the UK.  I still have my tattered copy of Doomsday:  Britain after nuclear attack by Stan Openshaw, Philip Steadman and Owen Greene, published more than thirty years ago.  Those were heady days: the authors were members of Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, and the book was put together soon after the European Nuclear Disarmament Appeal launched by E. P. Thompson (who famously announced he had “left his desk” to further the campaign), Mary Kaldor, Dan Smith and Ken Coates.

Next to Doomsday is my equally battered and well-thumbed copy of a book of essays edited by two other British geographers, David Pepper and Alan Jenkins, The geography of peace and war, which appeared in 1985.  It was in three Parts, ‘The geography of the Cold War and the arms race’, ‘The geography of nuclear war’ (which included an update from Stan and Philip) and ‘The geography of peace’ (with an essay on nuclear weapon free zones).

Fast forward twenty years, and these emphases are in stark contrast to Colin Flint‘s edited collection, Geography of war and peace, in which nuclear war receives just passing mention(s).  The same is true of Audrey Kobayashi‘s still more recent Geography of peace and armed conflict – apart from one brief chapter concerned with Iran.

HOGG British Nuclear CultureAll of this will explain why I am looking forward to the publication of Jonathan Hogg‘s British Nuclear Culture: official and unofficial narratives in the long 20th century, coming from Bloomsbury in January:

The advent of the atomic bomb, the social and cultural impact of nuclear science, and the history of the British nuclear state after 1945 is a complex and contested story. British Nuclear Culture is an important survey that offers a new interpretation of the nuclear century by tracing the tensions between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ nuclear narratives in British culture.

In this book, Jonathan Hogg argues that nuclear culture was a pervasive and persistent aspect of British life, particularly in the years following 1945. This idea is illustrated through detailed analysis of various primary source materials, such as newspaper articles, government files, fictional texts, film, music and oral testimonies. The book introduces unfamiliar sources to students of nuclear and cold war history, and offers in-depth and critical reflections on the expanding historiography in this area of research.

Chronologically arranged, British Nuclear Culture reflects upon, and returns to, a number of key themes throughout, including nuclear anxiety, government policy, civil defence, ‘nukespeak’ and nuclear subjectivity, individual experience, protest and resistance, and the influence of the British nuclear state on everyday life. The book contains illustrations, individual case studies, a select bibliography, a timeline, and a list of helpful online resources for students of nuclear history.

Joseph Masco – author of The nuclear borderlands: The Manhattan Project in post-Cold War New Mexico and The theater of operations: National security affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror  – likes it, which is more than enough for me:

We know the atomic bomb fundamentally transformed modern life, but Jonathan Hogg shows us that it did not do so in the same way everywhere. This is a important contribution to nuclear studies as it takes both nation and region seriously in the production of a nuclear culture. Hogg does not just follow expert concerns or defense policy debates, he also attends to the vernacular forms of local activisms across British cities and generations. British Nuclear Culture leads the way to a new comparative nuclear studies, and with it, a deeper understanding of the nuclear revolution.

Here is the Contents List:

Introduction
1. Early Nuclear Culture
2. The Manhattan Project
3. 1945 – 1950: Early Responses to the Bomb
4. 1950 – 1958: Maturing Responses
5. 1958 – 1979: Radicalised and Realist Responses
6. 1979 – 1989: Extreme Realism
7. 1989 – 2011: The Persistence of Nuclear Culture
8. Conclusion

For those who don’t think it surprising that – apart from people like Michael Curry, Matt FarishScott Kirsch and Fraser MacDonald– human geographers should have turned away from a critical scrutiny of atomic geographies so speedily with the presumptive waning of the Cold War, notice the title of Chapter 7…

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