Writing Development

NuclearBrink Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today


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!

NWCDTP Conference: Thinking, Making & Meaning

This year the annual AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership’s Annual Conference was held at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester between the 19th and 20th October 2016. 

What exactly is ‘making meaning’? What does it mean to ‘think’ historically? And how do we ‘make meaning from the act of making’? These are the questions the NWCDTP Conference: Thinking, Making and Meaning attempted to answer. The conference brought together a national funding body, the networks attached to it, and the local communities and individuals – both educators, students and collaborators – together, each with their own research questions, objectives, expectations, experiences, emotions, backgrounds, disciplines and opinions.


Networking reined primarily at the conference – as students just starting, completing, or finished their research met with experienced and new educators across the national funding council. It was here that I realised that ‘Nuclear Culture’ and all the theories, methods and ideas that surround it, stretch far beyond the limited landscape I had envisioned beforehand.

At the conference, we heard from the Director & Deputy Director of the NWCDTP introducing us, as the new cohorts, to the mammoth, regional scheme to support and produce ‘the new researchers of today’. The Director reflected upon our proposals, and how we had been selected not just based on our academic abilities, networks and passion for our disciplines, but because we were going to engage with the wider public. At first I thought this was strange: for by nature our thesis’ will be personal, a personal journey of research, development and academia that will contribute to wider human knowledge. How can we possibly project something so specific, so complex, and so personal, onto the wider public? How could we ‘make’ our research into something that anyone could ‘make meaning’ from it – so to speak.

The Director instructed the new cohort to introduce themselves, and their research, to as many people as possible and form a group with people researching something similar. After a brief scramble, I found myself sitting in a large group of other students, all of whom were united by an interest with place and community. Suddenly, my interest in nuclear cities was interlinked with many other disciplines: Poetry, English, Dance, Archeology, Religion, Film. All of which sought to use the same methods as me to make meanings in our research. It was then I realised the true benefit of working within a consortium, the connections. Sitting in a group of fellow researchers, with the same interests but different disciplines, time periods, theories and objectives, made me see how many bridges I could cross to reach my end goal and the proposition of collaboration where I had perhaps not seen it previously.

And thus, we heard the legacies of the NWCDTP from current, final and finished students themselves. We heard how archives were being used, challenged and analysed in new ways, how new connections to museums were set up and how the NWCDTP could provide museums with new resources and contracts through placements and small research projects. We heard how development skills bridging many sectors could be mutually enhancing, such as marrying American Finance and Gothic Literature. We learned of new ways to engage with material objects – how to identify with them, understand them and see the complex ‘meanings’ that entangle seemingly ordinary objects such as photos, wardrobes and textiles. We were introduced to the NWCDTP’s passion for public engagement, for blog writing, public speaking, conferences and workshops and most importantly how to make research not only meaningful for academia, but how to make it meaningful to the public. In this way, the NWCDTP sought to stretch its influence to local communities and other participants across the world. We were introduced to philosophical advancements in understanding the body, horror, uncertainty and ideology, and practical advancements in the use of linguistics, Google Ngram & corpus programmes. The conference was a celebration, and an introduction, to the consortium’s legacies and future endeavours. 


I was subsequently left with the questions: How could I ‘make meaning’ with my research? How does it create ‘meaning’ through ‘making’? Are there new ways of ‘thinking’ about nuclear culture and nuclear anxiety that I have not considered? I thought of how I would ‘make’ history conducting oral history interviews, and how meaning would be created through analysis and memory. How I would draw ‘meaning’ from other historiography, from newspaper articles and testimonies. How meaning is not only created by the historian, but also by the reader, the participants, the memories that form the research. Imagination, Emotions, Visibility, Anxiety, Memory, Experience; these are all territories historians are starting to explore deeply, but I feel we should also consider the question: How, and why, do historians ‘make’ and identify particular meanings in physical and mental historical world. 


Thank you for the AHRC NWCDTP for inviting me for the conference: I would also like to highlight the academics and workshops I attended during the conference, all of which were extraordinarily fascinating and engaging.
– Unfolding the Archive by Jo Darnley (Manchester Metropolitan University)
– Writing through the Fragments: Ekphrastic Encounters with Michael Landy’s Breakdown by Lindsay Polly Crisp (Goldsmiths, University of London)
– Dorcas Stories: Archives as Mechanisms of Creating and Meaning by Rose Sinclair (Goldsmiths, University of London)
– Public Speaking by Dr Margarida Dolan (International Consultant)
– Keynote Speeches by Dr Scott Thurson (University of Salford) and Professor Leon Cruickshank (Lancaster University)
– Making Meaning from MERZ: A Cultural Moving Target by Jackie Haynes (University of Cumbria)
– Relations by William Titley (Manchester Metropolitan Univerisity)
– Making and Breaking the Bronze Age by Matthew G. Knight (University of Exeter)
– Tracing out the Textual Waive: Women and (out)laws in Pre-modern England by Bethany Jones (University of Lancaster)
– Impure Knowledge’s of the Writing Bodylies: The case of Leonid Lipavsky’s “Research into Horror” by Mariia Semashyna
– It’s an Art: Using Digital Humanities to draw meaning from texts by Emma Franklin (Lancaster University)
– New Labour, Same Old Neo-Liberal Danger: Ideology, and New Labour’s Reforms to the NHS by David Ian Benhow (Keele University)
– The Giant Vampire Squid in the room: Gothic Finance and Financial Gothic, Revealing Spectral Capital as the Ghost of American-Gothic by Amy Bride (University of Manchester)
– Choosing Futures: Calculation as Fiction in Risk Management by Conrad Moriarty-Cole (Goldsmiths, University of London) 


Nationalism, Nukes & Neighbours: The Nuclear consequences of Brexit

So, the day is Thursday 23rd June 2016 and Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a  large international organisation of 28 member-states, with which it has been a member of since 1973.

The event has been described as “historical” and as “important as the falling of the Berlin Wall”.[1] And yet, unlike the Scottish independence referendum, little has been discussed (as far as I can tell) about the nuclear implications of this dramatic, divided and historical exit. 

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First, foremost and generally, the Brexit referendum will change the outlook on ‘British history’ forever. For my entire academic career I have envisioned a new perspective on ‘generalised’ British history, following the suit of Hugh Kearney’s “four nation” theory.[2] The results of the referendum firmly demonstrate that the United Kingdom is united no more, and it must be seen as a number of nations, and cultures, that co-exist within the country.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have demonstrated completely different agendas to that of Wales and England. And within England, new divisions are becoming obvious.[3] Whereas many would split the country across the middle, dividing it as “South” and “North”, these two divides (usually disagreeing over Conservative or Labour) have come together against the British capital, London, which opted to ‘Remain’ in the EU.

Thus, perhaps historians must now look at the United Kingdom as at least five different individual cultures and “nations” with unique, fluid agendas, roles and communities: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Northern England, Southern England and London. 


This may also be the last few years in which historians may look upon Britain as multiple nations as it seems likely the United Kingdom may split apart in the wake of Brexit. With  resurgence of nationalism and the differing votes, division is the word of the hour, and it seems a second Scottish independence referendum will likely take place in the coming years, and Scotland will gain its independence.[4]

Furthermore, it seems likely Northern Ireland will consider leaving the UK, as talks for Irish reunification have resurfaced.[5] Perhaps most surprisingly however, London seems to have an agenda to separate itself from the rest of England to maintain European connections.[6]

Thus, as the United Kingdom is torn apart in the chaos of Brexit, the currently heavily generalised terminology of “British nuclear culture” shall also be subsequently torn apart in historiography.


The European Union was created in the aftermath of World War Two, designed to counter extreme nationalism, enforce unity and create beneficial trade.[7] While the EU was not created with military intentions, it was created from military intentions, and has forges strong alliances across Europe. Thus, it is likely that once Britain leaves the EU, and many trade agreements no doubt suffer, military strength will become more important for the island in order to maintain its global voice.

Nuclear bombs are still the language of the strong. Although this of course does not necessarily mean that Britain will suddenly start creating more nuclear bombs, but it does mean we may perhaps become more dependant on them in the future.

Other international organisations such as the UN, and more specifically NATO, will become more important to Britain in gaining an independent, global voice. As nationalism and anxiety continuously climbs in the wake of many terrorist and racial attacks in recent weeks, the need for military (and perhaps nuclear) strength will become more prominent. 

Furthermore, the EU will no longer provide nuclear security to Britain, in the form of other allies with nuclear weapons i.e. France and free movement for nuclear subs around Europe, and in nuclear industry as it is likely that Britain will no longer benefit from the European Atomic Energy Commission.[8] Although how this will effect British nuclear industry is yet to be seen.


Render of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station which now may not be able to go ahead in the aftermath of Brexit. [9]

As previously stated, with the British vote to leave the EU, it is now likely that Scotland will gain independence, and this has very real and dramatic implications for Britain’s nuclear weapons. Britain’s key nuclear weapons system, Trident, which is currently undergoing renewal, is stored in Scotland, Faslane.

During the Scottish independence bid in 2014, Scotland made it clear that they did not want nuclear weapons anymore, and intended to get rid of them. Nicola Sturgeon, leader of SNP, which politically dominates Scotland, is a supporter of the anti-nuclear movement.[10] Thus, England may find itself in the same situation it was in during 2014 – What do we do with our bombs if we can’t keep them in Scotland.

According to Hugh Gusteron, it is likely Trident will be placed in France, America or one of three locations in Britain.[11] However, with the stigma and tensions that have come hand in hand with Brexit, particularly with France, it may be more likely that England will have to keep its nuclear weapons on its own turf.

If so, we may see a resurgence in nuclear anxiety as communities, towns and villages campaign to protect their homes from being in proximity to the weapons. There was a great increase in nuclear anxiety in the 50s, and again, thirty years later in the 80s.[12] So perhaps it is only natural for there to be a resurgence another thirty years later in the  2020s, when Brexit will have likely completed it’s course.

In conclusion, Brexit does have some serious nuclear implications for the UK and it will be interesting to observe what effect, reaction and consequences it will inevitably lead to.



[1] Brexit ‘most important moment since Berlin Wall’: Le PenBBC News, 28 June 2016. [accessed July 2016]

[2] Hugh Kearney, The British Isles: A History of Four Nations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

[3] Brexit, the divide between generationsBBC News, 29 June 2016, UK votes to leave EU after dramatic night divides nation, The Guardian, 24 June 2016, Brexit: Just how divided is Britain? BBC News, 27 June 2016 and How would Brexit affect Scotland and Northern Ireland? The Telegraph, 20 June 2016 [all accessed July 2016]

[4] Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon says second Scottish independent vote ‘highly likely‘, BBC News, 24 June 2016 [accessed July 2016]

[5] Sinn Féin calls for vote on Irish unification if UK backs Brexit, The Guardian, 11 March 2016 [accessed July 2016]

[6] Petition for London Independence signed by thousands after Brexit vote, BBC News, 24 June 2016 [accessed July 2017]

[7] John McCormick, Understanding the European Union. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

[8] The Brexit effect on UK NuclearWorld Nuclear News, 24 June 2016. [accessed July 2016] 

[9] Brexit could mean cancellation of Hinkley Point nuclear power stationThe Independent, 28 June 2016 [accessed July 2016]

[10] Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon  condemn Trident at rallyBBC News, 27 February 2016 [accessed July 2017]. On Anti-nuclear anxiety during the first Scottish referendum please see: ; Scottish independence: How would Scotland defend itself?The Guardian, 4 September 2014, Scottish independence: Trident relocation ‘very difficult but not impossible’BBC News, 14 August 2014, and Scottish independence: where might Trident go?BBC News, 30 June 2014. [all accessed June 2016]

[11] Hugh Gusterson, Nuclear Brexit, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 30 June 2016. Also see A UK Nuclear vote, as Brexit looms. [accessed June 2016]

[12] Jon Hogg, British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the twentieth century. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.