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The University of Southampton

HIST3219 Nuclear War and Peace, Part II

Module Overview

Part II of this module examines the post-1968 global nuclear order and its discontents, acquainting you with the facts, cases, theories and debates necessary to comprehend the history of nuclear weapons from the opening for signature of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to the present. A representative list of seminar themes would be the negotiation of the NPT and ensuing debates about fairness and legitimacy in global nuclear governance; U.S.-Soviet strategic arms talks; anti-ballistic missiles and the Strategic Defense Initiative; nuclear arms talks between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev; the Soviet nuclear arsenal’s scattering after 1991; the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs; nuclear proliferation in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia; intelligence failures in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War; international humanitarian law; the Iran nuclear talks; and North Korea’s nuclear tests. With the building blocks from the previous semester, we will inquire into the features of what scholars call the “global nuclear order:” What does it comprise? Who benefits from it? Is it just, effective or sustainable? Scholars and policymakers have cited the tremendous harm that nuclear weapons can inflict to justify extraordinary measures ranging from export controls to financial sanctions and even preventive war. You will accordingly work to resolve two paradoxes in nuclear logic. If nuclear weapons keep the peace, why has the international community struggled to stop more states from acquiring them? If their uses are so manifestly unethical, illegal, and risk-laden, why have serious efforts to abolish nuclear weapons failed?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • possess a broad knowledge base about why each nuclear-weapon states came in existence and how they have oriented their nuclear programs in addition to the international crises, negotiations, and dynamics that have occurred as a result
  • be conversant in the science and technology behind fissile material production, warhead design, delivery vehicles, blast effects and countermeasures
  • familiarize yourself with a wide range of scholarship in nuclear studies, namely the main arguments and evidence for theories about deterrence, arms control, strategic stability, proliferation, nonproliferation, disarmament, emboldenment and international relations as a general subject.
  • form sophisticated opinions about the costs, benefits and risks that nuclear weapons pose
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • collect, analyse, synthesize and interpret a wealth of primary and secondary material
  • comment fluently on complex historical and theoretical debates, with appropriate use of evidence in argumentation
  • demonstrate a range as well as a depth of knowledge and insight about historical cases studies and theoretical models that feature nuclear weapons
  • exhibit an understanding of the differences between national, transnational, international, supranational and global fields of analysis
  • draw upon your acquired knowledge in debate, essays, role play, war games and under timed conditions
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • work independently and unsupervised for extended periods of time on complex tasks
  • display effective time management
  • interact purposefully, productively and confidently with both your tutor and peers
  • discuss course material fluidly, precisely, creatively and with appropriate use of terminology
  • make valuable, critical and valued contributions to discussions and debates
  • write speedily yet fluently for extended periods, clearly articulating your ideas
  • skim, select and summarize complex material
  • write in a mature and sophisticated style, with professional-level prose and presentation
  • apply the skills acquired during the module to problem-solving and policy-making


Part II of this module looks at the global nuclear order that has arisen by virtue of a combination of international law, norms, and power. You must make sense of the underlying tension between coercion and governance in international nuclear affairs and correspondingly how nuclear weapons contribute to the distribution of rights and power in the contemporary international system. Two dichotomies will help us classify and comprehend seminal moments in the past fifty years of nuclear history: order versus anarchy and justice versus injustice. These related yet independent terms illuminate the paradoxes that surround nuclear weapons, whose destructiveness exerts systemic influence on international affairs, while also rendering the armaments unusable. A representative list of themes in the seminars and readings will be non-proliferation, arms control, military doctrine, counter-proliferation and emboldenment. The semester will wrap up with a summation exercise forecasting which trends will in the short-, medium-, and long-terms, followed by a two- hour war game in which you will confront a realistic crisis scenario featuring nuclear weapons. Given that the history covered in this module is of a recent nature, the emphasis will increasingly fall on why diplomats, strategists, and military leaders tend to think and act in the ways in which they do when dealing with nuclear weapons. Even so, we will explore various historiographical controversies, many of which will pertain to the relationship between agency and structure in matters of international war and peace. An indicative list of seminar topics would include: Non-proliferation The liberal world order and the NPT Non-proliferation in the 1970s and tutorials to discuss progress on dissertation Arms control Nuclear arms control from Nixon to Bush Strategic postures Explaining the “long peace” Nuclear strategy beyond the Cold War Reversal Proliferation I: The post-Soviet republics and South Asia Emboldenment Proliferation II: Iran, Libya and North Korea The second nuclear age Nuclear abolition and tutorials to discuss feedback on dissertation draft Nuclear brinksmanship in the 21st-century and war game

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Seminars will entail focused reading and rigorous analysis of primary sources in conjunction with wide-ranging and penetrating discussions of landmark historical and theoretical literature on the subject of nuclear weapons since the Second World War, accompanied by forays into the core historiography of the global cold war, international relations and American power since 1945. • Role play to help you grasp and appreciate the motivations, constraints, aims and contexts that policymakers work in and with in the United State and elsewhere in the world. At the end of every substantive seminar you will break down into groups with assigned policymaking roles for the purpose of advising the seminar leader, who will play the role of an executive policymaker, for example, the U.S. secretary of defense, national security adviser, or the president herself. The final meeting will comprise a war game based upon a realistic, contemporary international crisis involving nuclear weapons. • One-on-one appointments to provide guidance and feedback on research, writing, and dissertating Learning activities include: • Analysis and interpretation of selected primary documents • Consideration and comprehension of seminal historiographical and theoretical debates • Substantial preparatory reading and personal study • Individual participation in seminars and group work on seminar themes • Intensive individual research and writing • Engagement in historical re-enactment, role play, debate, group presentations, and a war game

Preparation for scheduled sessions58
Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice50
Follow-up work100
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

David Patrikarakos (2012). Nuclear Iran : The Birth of an Atomic State. 

Raymond L. Garthoff (2015). Strategies of Inhibition: U.S. Grand Strategy, the Nuclear Revolution, and Nonproliferation. International Security. ,40 .

Feroz Hassan Khan (2012). Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. 

Mark S Bell (2015). Beyond Emboldenment: How Acquiring Nuclear Weapons Can Change Foreign Policy. International Security. ,40 .

George Perkovich (1999). India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation. 

Raymond L. Garthoff (1994). Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan. 

Ariel E. Levite (2003). Never Say Never Again: Nuclear Reversal Revisited. International Security. ,27 .

Etel Solingen (2007). Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East. 

John Lewis Gaddis (1987). The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War. 

Etel Solingen (2012). Sanctions, Statecraft, and Nuclear Proliferation. 

Philip Taubman (2012). The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb. 

William Walker (2012). A Perpetual Menace: Nuclear Weapons and International Order. 

Steven E. Miller (2012). Nuclear Collisions: Discord, Reform & the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime. 

Vipin Narang (2014). Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict. 

Mohamed El Baradei (2011). The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times. 

Matthew Kroenig (2010). Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons. 

Paul J. Bracken (2012). The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics. 

Scott Sagan (2009). Inside Nuclear South Asia. 

Jacques E. C. Hymans (2012). Achieving Nuclear Ambitions: Scientists, Politicians and Proliferation. 

Jacques E. C. Hymans (2006). The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions, and Foreign Policy. 


Assessment Strategy

1. At the end of each thematic section, students will put themselves in the shoes of a historical personage and write a memorandum, strategy paper, opinion piece or diary entry (max 500 words) about a topic covered in class or the readings those weeks (e.g. a New York Times editorial arguing for or against the authorization of the use of force against Iraq by the U.S. Congress). The memo will be due at the beginning of class at the seminar meeting immediately following the end of that section. In the final response, the students will convey what they learned during the two-hour war game at the end of the module. Each response should be double-spaced with 1-inch margins and 12-pt Time New Roman font, and include all the distinguishing characteristics of the chosen genre (e.g. address and signature in memoranda). The student should aim at concision, coverage, and clearness of aim and expression. 2. Each student will write an essay (4000 words) on a topic of his or her choice. The goal of the assignment is to explain a significant event, topic, or debate in the international history of nuclear weapons from 1968 to the present. The students will present an abstract with a title, abstract, brief outline, and annotated bibliography with at least five secondary and three primary sources (e.g. newspapers, novels, memoirs, archives, personal papers) by week 5. The final papers must be printed and turned in with a cover sheet and bibliography at the beginning of week 22. 3. The final assessment is a timed examination, lasting three hours in which students will be expected to complete three questions from a choice of nine. The exam will cover the full depth and breadth of the double module, and students will be expected to show an awareness of the historiographical debates, as well as the contemporary events which relate to international nuclear history. Students will be assessed on their ability to construct coherent and well-substantiated arguments, and to draw upon a wide range of evidence from a range of primary and secondary sources in order to back their claims.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination 40%
Exercise  (500 words) 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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