America’s decision seventy years ago to drop atomic bombs on Japan introduced Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the international lexicon. “Yesterday we clinched victory in the Pacific, but we sowed the whirlwind” wrote Hanson Baldwin in the New York Times. That whirlwind was sown through misinformation, lies and secrets, and scattered the seeds of further secrecy and denial. It spurred the development of the United Nations, as nations sought to find mechanisms of managing this new reality and the terrible fears it engendered.
Over these years, there have been a number of moments – such as the Cuban Missile Crisis – when it seemed that the horror of Hiroshima would be repeated, but the key actors pulled back from the brink. Efforts have been made to wind back from only minutes to midnight, as illustrated by the hands of the ‘Doomsday Clock’. This most dangerous period in the history of humankind has been variously reported and recorded, but in incomplete, partial and deceptive ways. Do these gaps in public knowledge and the historical record diminish the possibility of informed debate and increase the risk of wilful deception and ensuing catastrophe?
This conference will explore the contestation over knowledge about nuclear bombs and warfare, including the impact and roles of misinformation and secrecy, from the start of the Second World War until the present day. The focus will be on nuclear weapons but will not exclude the issue of nuclear energy if appropriate. A concluding Round Table will provide an opportunity to review where we are now, and where we are going. Contributors will include academics, public servants, and activists.
Read the programme and register for the event here.
The conference will be accompanied by a small exhibition of material from the Institute’s library collections, curated by Christine Anderson.
When: 16 July 2015, 10:00 – 18:00
Where: The Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU