HY448 Course Description:
This course takes as a prime focus the nuclear policies pursued by some of the major powers in the international system from the initial use of nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It introduces and explores three main themes: how the advent of nuclear weapons came to influence national strategies and crisis behaviour; why the development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems fuelled an arms race that became one of the defining features of the Cold War; and how major powers have attempted to curb the testing of such weapons, the numbers contained in their arsenals, and their spread, through measures of arms control and non-proliferation. After examining the controversy over the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945, including the moral and ethical questions raised by nuclear use, the course includes consideration of some of the most important moments in post-war nuclear history – the course is not designed or intended to be a potted history of the Cold War, but rather looks at the influence and role of nuclear weapons (and the strategic thinking that accompanied their development). The impact of changing public attitudes toward nuclear weapons is also covered, and attention given to the Chinese, British and French national nuclear programmes, as well as those of the Soviet Union and United States. The last portion of the course features analysis of the international negotiations over arms control and non-proliferation that have featured since the late 1960s and the controversies they generated. Throughout the course students will engage with contemporary writings and study primary source documents which will accompany each topic.