Conceptions of the Bomb in the Early Nuclear Age

  • Casper SylvestEmail author
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)


In this chapter, Casper Sylvest explores the role of nuclear weapons in intellectual history during the early decades of the Cold War, predominantly in the US and Europe. The chapter opens with a discussion of the role of nuclear weapons technology in transforming both scientific knowledge about the planet and the landscape of intellectual debate. Sylvest then turns to the conceptions of this technology among policymakers, military figures, scientists and public intellectuals. Four sites of contestation are singled out: the question of morality, the question of use, the question of stability and a more amorphous set of questions associated with the human condition in the nuclear age. In conclusion, Sylvest reflects on the nature of nuclear weapons and our historical understanding of them.


Nuclear weapons Intellectual history Morality Use Stability The human condition 



I would like to thank Jens Bartelson, Rosanna Farbøl, Rens van Munster, Kirstine Sinclair, Vibeke Schou Tjalve, the participants at the UCSIA International Workshop on Non-Nuclear Peace (University of Antwerp, 23–25 May 2018) and the editors for helpful comments and suggestions. All the usual disclaimers apply.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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