Online Course

Research “In-tents”

Often, our research takes us across the country, and sometimes across the world. But if we are travelling so much, how can we save costs and ensure an efficient and productive trip, particularly if we have to do it frequently. These were the questions and dilemmas that faced me as I confronted the sheer amount of time and money my project would soak up. My project takes me all around the UK, looking at five cities, their local histories, museums, archives, and of course, the people within them.

So, my solution was to abandon home comforts, pack my tent, and camp while I undertook my archival research in the city of Cardiff, in Wales. Financially, it cost about two thirds of the price of staying in a hotel for the same amount of time! I stayed at a council-owned campsite in the centre of Cardiff, a surprisingly peaceful and quite beautiful stretch of green space in the centre of a fairly large city. Although the tent was not always comfortable (or dry), the walk to and from the Local Histories Library was breathtaking. As it was mid-October, the sun rose as I walked into the city, and set on my walk back, and it was pleasant and rewarding after a long day staring at screens and old newspapers.

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Living in a tent while working in a library 8-6, however was not always comfortable. Using inflatable mattresses, roll mats, and plenty of blankets, the tent was usually warm  and dry. Also, despite being a three man tent, I missed having a larger bedroom space (and being able to walk around). Cooking was also difficult at times, particularly when it rained in the evenings. However, this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. Camping made my research feel more of an adventure, I felt more focused on my work, and actually got a good’s night sleep every night without television or the internet to distract me. However, I don’t think I could have camped any more than four nights. By the last day, my back hurt and my need for home comforts began to outweigh my enjoyment of the great outdoors. Anyone who is a keen adventurer and experienced in camping, I would highly recommend camping for those PhD students who have to make numerous research trips during the course of their research.

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In terms of the content found, Cardiff was extremely rewarding. The Local Histories Library (Cathay Library) was extremely helpful in helping me find what I needed and ensuring I could have almost constant use of the microfilm machines. The microfilm machines themselves were modern, using a computer to read the films rather then projecting them (a welcome and much needed change in my opinion). The Library would close for an hour over lunch, which was always bittersweet, tearing me away from my work, but also forcing me to have a much needed break and reflect on what I had uncovered.

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I spent the majority of my time at the library looking at the South Wales Echo from 1952-1954, trying to understand Cardiff’s relationship to nuclear weapons during the 1950s. Cardiff seemed conflicted over the emerging appearance of nuclear power in the 1950s, an understanding response considering South Wales high coal worker population. Within the South Wales Echo there appeared to be an apparent ‘normalisation’ of the bomb, with articles talking about using ‘atom rays to grow crops’, powering televisions and aeroplanes with ‘atoms’ and numerous articles on the ‘peaceful’ use of atomic weapons. All this ran alongside Cardiff building numerous nuclear bunkers across and nearby the city and frequent reports on the importance of Civil Defence in the city. In fact, the South Wales Echo reported a large amount of outraged articles when a nearby county decided to not fund Civil Defence anymore, shortly after the first American H-bomb test. What did this mean? Did Cardiff (and South Wales) publicly report on a  peaceful bomb, while taking measures to protect itself? Was there an underlying, embedded fear in the city? Why was Civil Defence reported about so frequently? How did these nuclear experiences and responses in 1950s Cardiff relate to it’s WWII experience? I hope to enlighten the answers to these questions in my next research trip (hopefully in a bigger tent!).

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NuclearBrink Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today

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The University of Stanford is currently offering an interesting and unique online course: NuclearBrink Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today. The course offers an introduction to the history of nuclear weapons, focusing on topics such as Deterrence, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall, Proliferation, Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear Policies and so forth. See an outline of the course here:

Week 1: Introduction; What Are Nuclear Weapons and Why Were They Developed?
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Joseph Martz; Dr. Siegfried Hecker

Week 2: Nuclear Proliferation in the United States and Around the World
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Joseph Martz; Dr. Siegfried Hecker

Week 3: Under a Nuclear Cloud: Early Cold War
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. David Holloway

Week 4: Fear and Loathing and Relief: Later Cold War
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. David Holloway

Week 5: A Lack of Intelligence
Dr. William J. Perry; Philip Taubman

Week 6: Dilemmas of Nuclear Policy
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Scott Sagan; Dr. David Holloway; Dr. Andre Kokoshin

Week 7: New Nuclear Dangers: Nuclear Terrorism
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Martha Crenshaw; Dr. Siegfried Hecker

Week 8: New Nuclear Dangers: South Asia and Proliferation
Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Scott Sagan; Dr. Martha Crenshaw; Dr. Siegfried Hecker; Dr. Andre Kokoshin

Week 9: What Has Been Done, and Can Be Done, about Nuclear Dangers
Dr. William J. Perry; Amb. James Goodby; Secretary George Shultz

Week 10: What Next?
Dr. William J. Perry; Joseph Cirincione

The course is currently on its fifth week but you can still sign up and ‘play catch up’ the course offers a number of videos, lectures and a wide array of primary and secondary material.

“The key goals of this course are to warn you of the dangers you face and to give you some insight on what could be done to avoid those dangers. My challenge in this course is to make vivid to you that the dangers of nuclear weapons, far from being historical curiosities, are existential dangers today. You will have the opportunity to engage in discussions about these topics with both world experts and peers from around the globe.”

– William Perry

It should be noted that the course does primarily focus on the American nuclear bomb, but does offer segments of history regarding South Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia and the United Kingdom. Another thing to consider is that it takes an anti-nuclear approach. William Perry  outwardly states that he hopes the course will help people take action against nuclear weapons. This political stance should be considered when embarking on the modules, as some information and arguments may be distorted and one-sided. However I would encourage all those interested in the history of nuclear weapons, and the fear surrounding them, to sign up!