Did nuclear weapons help to make the world safer between 1945 and 1951?
The development of the atomic bomb during the Second World War ushered in tremendous change on the world stage. Scientists rushed to forge new understandings of nuclear physics, working to harness the power of the atom for both destructive purposes in military applications and as a source of non-carbon-based energy for civilian life.
Once atomic weapons were used against Japan at the end of the war, the threat of nuclear disaster lay at the heart of every international conflict. The onset of the Cold War saw the escalation of arms races, with the major powers being defined as those with access to strong nuclear programmes. To many, it seemed that the development of nuclear weapons made the post-war world a more dangerous place, although many historians now argue that the opposite was in fact true. In this investigation, you’ll explore documents gathered from the Churchill Archive which will help you to investigate whether nuclear weapons helped to make the world safer between 1945 and 1951.
U.S. Navy nuclear test, Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. (FPG, CA21686, Getty images)