John Canaday, The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics, and the First Atomic Bombs . Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000. Pp. xviii+310. ISBN 0-299-16854-9. £19.50.
Septimus H. Paul, Nuclear Rivals: Anglo-American Atomic Relations 1941–1952 . Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2000. Pp. ix+266. ISBN 0-8142-0852-5. £31.95.
Peter Bacon Hales, Atomic Spaces: Living on the Manhattan Project ... [Show full abstract] . Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997. Pp. 448. ISBN 0-252-02296-3. £22.00.
A decade after the end of the Cold War, the culture and technology of nuclear weapons had lost much of the overt sense of dread they once inspired. The decline in international tension following the end of the communist regimes of the Soviet bloc produced a massive shift in the ideology of the nuclear in the 1990s. The de-targeting and dismantling of large numbers of nuclear weapons and the demise of the threat of nuclear annihilation created new conditions both for international security and for the writing of nuclear history. With the declassification and release of large quantities of official documentation from the former adversaries, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1995, a burst of histories of various aspects of the nuclear age have appeared over the last ten years, exploring not just the technopolitics, strategy and operational logistics of the Cold War and the arms race, but the cultural history of the nuclear age, its imagery, its architecture, its oppositional politics and its effects on the landscape, national and regional economies and cultures and indeed everyday life. At a time of global economic and political uncertainty and the emergent threat of capricious international terrorism and new nuclear proliferation, the apparent certainties of the Cold War now even evoke a certain nostalgia, and its artefacts and structures are being recast as ‘heritage’.