Fall 2023

The Nuclear Age

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-113


Ellen R. Boucher (Section 01)
Vanessa Walker (Section 02)


On August 6, 1945, a United States bomber dropped the first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, transforming the world in an instant. This course explores the emergence of nuclear technology and its impact on global politics, society, and culture from roughly the Second World War to the present day. We will begin with the invention of the atomic bomb during World War II, exploring its societal, environmental, and cultural effects in Japan as well as its broader impact on American and European politics and identity. We will then examine the diverse ramifications of the nuclear arms race in the 1950s and 1960s, and again in the 1980s, which both pushed the world towards the brink of destruction and also fostered new forms of international cooperation and grassroots activism. We will also analyze the continuing debates over nuclear technology in the context of energy, natural resources, scientific responsibility, and environmentalism. Drawing on a range of sources, from governmental reports and diaries to cartoons, films, and paintings, the course will highlight the perspectives of a variety of groups and individuals who shaped and were shaped by the nuclear age, including scientists, policymakers, journalists, artists, activists, and victims of atomic blasts. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professors Boucher and Walker.

How to handle overenrollment: First-year students.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.

FYSE 113 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM CONV 207
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM CONV 207

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

Section(s) ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
All Hiroshima: The World's Bomb Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008 Rotten, Andrew TBD
All Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters Oxford : Oxford University Press, [2013] Brown, Kate TBD
All On the Beach New York : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010. Shute, Nevil TBD


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2022Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2023, Fall 2024