Rezension: Kevin Ruane (Hg.), Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War

Kevin Ruane (Hg.), Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War, London: Bloomsbury Publisher 2016

Rezensiert für den Arbeitskreis Historische Friedensforschung bei H-Soz-u-Kult von: Richard Moore, King’s College, London.

Winston Churchill chose the hydrogen bomb as the main subject for his last major speech in the House of Commons, opening the annual defence debate on 1 March 1955. The Prime Minister was in sombre mood:

„Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world? It does not matter too much to old people; they are going soon anyway; but I find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing their merry games, and wonder what would lie before them if God wearied of mankind.“

Kevin Ruane justifies this, yet another addition to the literature on Churchill, by stressing the exceptional gravity of the issues surrounding nuclear weapons and their importance to Churchill himself and thus to his management of Cold War Anglo-American and Anglo-Soviet relations. He also wishes to offer a counter to recent scholarship on the “lameness” of Churchill’s second administration between 1951 and 1955.

Whereas Graham Farmelo, in another recent account of Churchill’s Bomb, told a story of Churchill and atomic science and scientists, Ruane focuses on international politics and the evolution of Churchill’s own thinking. He provides a welcome three-part structure to the book, dealing in turn with Churchill the bomb-maker during the second world war, Churchill the “atomic diplomatist” roughly between 1945 and 1954, and Churchill the peacemaker thereafter.

Readers may be confused initially by Ruane’s idiosyncratic definition of “diplomatist”, for the diplomacy he has in mind is not the sort we associate with Presidents Truman or Eisenhower, seeking internationalisation of the atom or offering “atoms for peace”. Rather, it is atomic sabre-rattling, complete with “ultimatums” and “showdowns” with the Soviet Union. Interestingly, the turning-points in Churchill’s thinking came, Ruane argues, when an especially vivid personal account made him stop and consider the bomb’s power. First, at the Potsdam conference in July 1945, he was impressed by Brigadier Thomas Farrell’s eye-witness report of the first atom bomb test in the New Mexico desert: “finally he understood the awesomeness of atomic power” (p. 134). Then, in February 1954, like many others around the world, he was forcibly struck by Congressman Sterling Cole’s public statement on US thermonuclear weapons, constituting an “epiphany” for the Prime Minister (p. 246). weiterlesen

Empfohlene Zitierweise
Richard Moore: Rezension zu: Ruane, Kevin (Hrsg.): Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War. London 2016 , in: H-Soz-Kult, 27.06.2017, <>.