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Wretched Atom

America's Global Gamble with Peaceful Nuclear Technology

«Peaceful nuclear technology...was presented to the world as atonement for the nuclear sins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Clean and cheap nuclear power would make deserts bloom and eradicate poverty. These goals were never realized, and, Hamblin argues, they were never meant to be...Hamblin...portrays countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America as abiding by US rules in hopes of receiving potentially liberating technology only to have these hopes dashed by imperialist attitudes and interests...Hamblin's ability to endow this overlooked topic with coherence and meaning is nothing short of brilliant.»

Paul Rubinson, American Historical Review

A groundbreaking narrative of how the United States offered the promise of nuclear technology to the developing world and its gamble that other nations would use it for peaceful purposes.

After the Second World War, the United States offered a new kind of atom that differed from the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Les mer

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A groundbreaking narrative of how the United States offered the promise of nuclear technology to the developing world and its gamble that other nations would use it for peaceful purposes.

After the Second World War, the United States offered a new kind of atom that differed from the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This atom would cure diseases, produce new foods, make deserts bloom, and provide abundant energy for all. It was an atom destined for the formerly colonized, recently occupied, and mostly non-white parts of the world that were dubbed the "wretched of the earth" by Frantz Fanon.

The "peaceful atom" had so much propaganda potential that President Dwight Eisenhower used it to distract the world from his plan to test even bigger thermonuclear weapons. His scientists said the peaceful atom would quicken the pulse of nature, speeding nations along the path of economic development and helping them to escape the clutches of disease, famine, and energy shortfalls. That promise became one of the most misunderstood political weapons of the twentieth century. It was adopted by
every subsequent US president to exert leverage over other nations' weapons programs, to corner world markets of uranium and thorium, and to secure petroleum supplies. Other countries embraced it, building reactors and training experts. Atomic promises were embedded in Japan's postwar recovery, Ghana's
pan-Africanism, Israel's quest for survival, Pakistan's brinksmanship with India, and Iran's pursuit of nuclear independence.

As The Wretched Atom shows, promoting civilian atomic energy was an immense gamble, and it was never truly peaceful. American promises ended up exporting violence and peace in equal measure. While the United States promised peace and plenty, it planted the seeds of dependency and set in motion the creation of today's expanded nuclear club.

Detaljer

Forlag
Oxford University Press Inc
Innbinding
Innbundet
Språk
Engelsk
ISBN
9780197526903
Utgivelsesår
2021
Format
16 x 24 cm
Priser
Winner, Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction, Oregon Book Awards null

Om forfatteren

Jacob Darwin Hamblin is Professor of History at Oregon State University. His books include Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age; Oceanographers and the Cold War; and Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (OUP, 2013), which won the Paul Birdsall Prize of the American Historical Association and the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize of the History
of Science Society.

Anmeldelser

«Peaceful nuclear technology...was presented to the world as atonement for the nuclear sins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Clean and cheap nuclear power would make deserts bloom and eradicate poverty. These goals were never realized, and, Hamblin argues, they were never meant to be...Hamblin...portrays countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America as abiding by US rules in hopes of receiving potentially liberating technology only to have these hopes dashed by imperialist attitudes and interests...Hamblin's ability to endow this overlooked topic with coherence and meaning is nothing short of brilliant.»

Paul Rubinson, American Historical Review

«The Wretched Atom offers a telling, and very rich, insight into the history of Western, mainly United States, policies regarding peaceful atomic energy. The book offers both a great overview of the develop-ment of Western atomic energy policies since the Second World War, and successfully contests the notion of 'peaceful' atomic energy. The main contribution of the book, however, is to show how the history of nuclear energy from Western perspective is inextricably linked to the history of postcolonialism, the concept of race, and the division between 'the West' and 'the rest.; In this way, The Wretched Atom will be of interest to everyone willing to learn more about the history of atomic energy, decolonization, and United States' geopolitical strategies during the Cold War.»

Michiel Bron, Journal of Energy History

«Throughout the work, Hamblin's thoughtful attention to the neocolonial workings of the "cornucopian illusion" of atomic power transforms what could have been a staid programmatic history into a much richer story at the intersection of the history of science and technology, diplomatic history, and the history of decolonization.»

Audra J. Wolfe, Isis

«Essential to the arguments against nuclear power is its history. This is where a new book titled The Wretched Atom...comes in... Jacob Darwin Hamblin... describes how the concept of peaceful nuclear energy was conceived, developed and sold. The tale he narrates includes government and industry manipulation of the truth, scientists and bureaucrats religious-like proselytizing to sell nuclear energy, and the neocolonialist nature of the decision-making by the powers involved in exporting this energy to other nations. It is a story fraught with racism, hubris and imperial arrogance. Conversely, it is also a narrative in which nuclear weapons became symbols of sovereignty and strength to governments of formerly colonized states.»

Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch

«An original and provocative contribution....Hamblin rightly reminds us of the boosterism, propaganda, and lobbying that has accompanied the historical trajectory of the peaceful atom almost from its inception.»

John Krige, Reviews in American History

«Hamblin's broad sweeping narrative offers an engaging study of the sustained attempts to promote nuclear technologies, even though such actions made the world less safe....When atomic energy was actually deployed, it was rarely peaceful and had far-reaching consequences, including geopolitical struggles, heightening tensions over colonialism and decolonization, and increasing debates on racism....The Wretched Atom provides a fresh perspective on the rhetoric and policy decisions concerning the atom that were made nearly seventy years ago, yet still resonate today.»

Jason Krupar, Technology and Culture

«The Wretched Atom is institutional history that reads like an adventure story. Rather than focusing on the notable failures of Atoms for Peace, Jake Hamblin asks how it was deployed. He finds that the implementation of peaceful energy has rarely been peaceful. Embedding this history in the context of the nuclear arms race, colonialism and decolonization, and geo-political struggles to take control over natural resources such as uranium and oil, Hamblin's study offers a rewarding re-examination of the long game behind the promotion of aspirational nuclear technology.»

Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival

«Jacob Darwin Hamblin's The Wretched Atom provocatively tells the story of global Realpolitik and unintended consequences in the pursuit and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear technology, adding a fresh perspective to thinking about the role of science in the modern Game of Nations.»

Timothy Naftali, co-author of Khrushchev's Cold War

«Providing a welcome addition to the atomic culture genre, Hamblin artfully employs all variants of wretched to describe the US promotion and control of 'peaceful nuclear technology.' Using an archival historical-analytical approach, he looks beyond American nuclear policy to consider a global strategy of countering oil production and use with a highly viable renewable energy source. Seeing the political uses of energy in technologically developed nations, the US and others held out the promise of nuclear energy to underdeveloped nations...but were fearful of it being used nefariously at the height of the Cold War....The promise of electrification, industrialization, desalinization, a plentiful food supply, and expanded medical opportunities was subordinated to national security and sovereignty issues....The global promise of 'Atoms for Peace' rapidly became one of anguished, piteous, loathsome outcomes for many nations in one of the first Green Revolutions.»

Choice

«The Wretched Atom is packed with discoveries that will interest author Jacob Darwin Hamblin's academic peers, carried along in a thrilling narrative page-turner sure to also ensnare lay readers. This exploration of the United States government's multi-decade strategy of cloaking the testing and proliferation of thermonuclear weapons within the promise of the atom's constructive potential is fascinating and immensely readable. Hamblin's deep research into materials previously unexplored by scholars, and in some cases nearly unknown even to the repositories that house them, inspires and satisfies.»

Paula Becker, Oregon Book Awards

«Arising from the ashes of World War II, the peaceful atom has been evergreen: bountiful energy, water, crops, and medicines to lift the world to an environmentally sustainable future. Hamblin's The Wretched Atom deftly shows how those perpetual promises were sustained by exploitative geopolitics and oftentimes outright cynicism. A sobering and engaging counternarrative of the dream of a utopian nuclear future.»

Michael D. Gordin, Princeton University

«The remarkable depth and detail that Hamblin offers in The Wretched Atom can only be hinted at in this review. The book is based upon extensive primary source research that is used to open up a multitude of significant topics and issues; readers will be impressed by the complexity of the narrative as it unfolds.»

Donald C. Jackson, H-Environment

«Global in its scope, The Wretched Atom explores both the utopian promise of civilian nuclear technologies and the eventual unraveling of that vision across much of the world.... While Hamblin emphasizes the disproportionate power and influence of the United States and other wealthier nuclear nations...his book shows how governments on the receiving end of nuclear technology transfers endeavored to push their own agendas and exert their own sway...not only in nuclear matters, but in international affairs more broadly....[It] is a deeply unsettling book-but in the best possible way. Throughout its pages, Hamblin urges his readers to think more critically about the uses and misuses of civilian nuclear technology, and to question just how 'peaceful' its history really was. Atoms were never purely technological nor apolitical entities, no matter what their boosters may have claimed.»

Julia F. Irwin, Diplomatic History

«A lucid and engaging book on the history of the global promotion of nuclear technologies....Empirically rich...it offers plenty of directions for critical studies of nuclear weapons in International Relations....This historical study challenges the taken-for-granted categorical division between 'harmful nuclear weapons' and 'peaceful nuclear power.'...The Wretched Atom provides a plethora of historical materials to mobilize the concept of race and coloniality to reinterpret the history of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.»

Ruoyu Li, E-International Relations

«In The Wretched Atom, historian Jacob Darwin Hamblin seeks to remind readers of the misguided 20th-century effort launched by the United States, its allies, and international agencies to expand nuclear energy around the world. The compelling narrative should lead readers to realize the importance of preventing a repeat of the follies that marked the early decades of the atomic age. Hamblin covers a vast amount.»

M. V. Ramana, Science Magazine

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