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Level 5

5AAH1060 From the Atom to Afghanistan: Science and Technology in the Cold War

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutorDr Caitjan Gainty
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500-word formative essay;  1 x 3,000-word essay (100%) 

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pre 2019/20: 2 x 2,500 word essay

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

This module will consider the history of the Cold War from the perspective of the scientific and technological forces that both shaped and were shaped by it. It will consider the well-known battles for supremacy in spaceflight and nuclear fission, and the fallout - political, chemical, cultural - these produced. But it will also look beyond these to examine the ways in which the Cold War was waged as a a global affair, between multiple actors and on many different kinds of battlefields.

In addition to the Cold War science of the Soviet Union and United States, we will consider other sites and regions, like China, Yugoslavia, divided Germany, and South Africa. Throughout, we will consider the ways in which the scientific and technological projects of the Cold War intertwined geopolitical and social concerns, and along the way complicated the relationship between civilian and military, private and public, the academy and government, and pure and applied science. Finally, we will question the periodisation of this era, asking not only whether we are yet out of its grasp, but also how, to what end and in what way it has served our historical consciousness in the first place.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory.

Lorraine Daston, Paul Erickson, Michael Gordin, Judy Klein, Rebecca Lemov and Thomas Sturm, How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Rationality in the Cold War (University of Chicago, 2013).

Rebecca Lemov, World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes and Men (New York,  2005). 

Paul Edwards, The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (Cambridge, MA, 1996).

Nikolai Krementsov, Stalinist Science (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa , (ed.) The Cold War in East Asia 1945-1991. (Stanford, 2011).

Mark Solovey, Science in the Cold War. Special Issue, Social Studies of Science, vol 31, no. 2, 2001.

Heonik Kwon, The Other Cold War (Columbia, 2010).

Rebecca Lowen, Creating the Cold War University (California, 1997).

Paul Josephson, New Atlantis Revisited: Akademgorodok, the Siberian City of Science (Princeton, 1997).

Audra Wolfe, Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins, 2013).

Agatha and Thomas Hughes, Systems, Experts and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After. (MIT, 2000).

David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb (Yale, 1996).

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