Call for Papers: ‘British Nuclear Culture: Themes, Approaches and Perspectives’


School of History, University of Liverpool, 17 -18 June 2010

Since the publication of Paul Boyer’s seminal study By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age in 1985, the examination of nuclear culture has mainly been conducted within the context of the United States. In spite of the fact that nuclear culture in Britain was, and still is, pervasive and powerful, scholars have largely neglected the topic, and it remains unclear how the term ‘nuclear culture’ should be understood.

British authors imagined the advent of nuclear weapons and nuclear power following the discovery of radioactivity in 1896, and the pivotal role of British scientists in the development of nuclear science was communicated to the public through the print media, radio and newsreels in the opening decades of the twentieth century. In the years following 1945, the knowledge of Britain’s role in the development of the atomic bomb linked with Britain’s geo-strategic location in the cold war contributed to significant levels of nuclear fear in British society. This nuclear fear generated civil defence programmes and a substantial anti-nuclear mass movement, as well as inspiring and impacting upon an array of cultural forms such as fiction, cartoon, film and music.

‘British Nuclear Culture: Themes, Approaches and Perspectives’ sets out firstly to investigate the unique nature of nuclear culture in twentieth century Britain and, secondly, to rethink the conceptualisation of nuclear culture more generally. We are seeking to explore the impact nuclear culture had on British society, and the ways in which the scientific community, political decision-makers, consumerism, works of popular science, literature, journalism and film combined to create an identifiable nuclear culture. Also, because established studies have focused predominantly on the socio-cultural and political implications of nuclear energy and weapons, our conference aims to move towards a broader conceptualisation of nuclear culture in general.

We invite the submission of proposals from scholars whose backgrounds may include cultural history, cold war history, intelligence history, history of science and technology, economic history, critical theory, literary studies, popular culture studies, gender studies, peace research, environmental history, diplomatic history and public history. Paper topics might include:

• ‘early’ British nuclear culture (pre-1945)

• civil defence

• the anti-nuclear movement

• transnationalism

• postcolonialism

• the environmental and medical effects of nuclear testing

• the scientific foundations of British nuclear culture

• the impact of nuclear culture on understandings of the cold war

Please send your 250-400-word proposal by 1 March 2010 to the co-organisers:

Dr. Jonathan Hogg ([email protected]) or Dr. Christoph Laucht ([email protected])

The School of History

University of Liverpool

9 Abercromby Square

Liverpool  L69 LWZ

United Kingdom

We aim to offer support for travel and accommodation to invited speakers. Other attendees will be required to register and pay a minimal fee. The registration fee will be £60 for the two-day conference (including refreshment and lunches). The day-rate will be £30. A reduced rate is available for postgraduate students (50%). For more information regarding registration, please email the addresses above.