Atomic Dreams: Society, Science and Soldiers in Nuclear America, 1945-1979 HIST4264

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines the diverse ways in which the society and military of the United States were affected by developments in nuclear technology during the early decades of the Cold War, in terms of such aspects as culture, protest, race, gender, civil defence, commercialisation, energy, spaceflight, warfare, and international relations. Students will use a range of both publicly available and declassified sources, from written documents to film clips, to explore the early postwar visions of an atomic-powered future and the lasting impact of their ideas on modern America.


14x1 hr lectures; 6x1hr seminars over ten weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Exam (60-minute duration) - 40%

Essay (2500 words) - 50%

Book review or source criticism (1000 words) - 10%

to be circulated in advance to seminar group to serve as a basis for discussion

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:


■ Evaluate the significance of events and debates in the early Atomic Age and their importance in shaping the modern United States of America.

■ Act as professional historians by analysing publicly-available/recently declassified written and audio-visual primary sources, through independent work and small-group discussions.

■ Gain experience of processes of literature review by providing critical assessment of secondary readings, through independent work and small-group discussions.

■ Gain experience of methods of assessing the multifaceted sociocultural, economic and military impact of new technologies on societies.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Identify and discuss in a critical manner key events and debates characterising US nuclear advancements for civilian and military use in the early Atomic Age.

■ Evaluate the sociocultural and political impact of controversies surrounding US development of nuclear technology and how these affected plans for an atomic-powered future.

■ Work independently and in small groups to evaluate critically primary sources and/or secondary readings, showing the acquisition of certain transferable skills (including oral/discursive and research).

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.