The Nuclear Bomb and American Culture

A Historiographical Essay


  • Nicholas Prenzler


“The Nuclear Bomb and American Culture: A Historiographical Essay” is an analysis of the historiographical trends regarding nuclear technology. The essay explains how historians moved from a cultural assessment of nuclear production toward an environmental interpretation. Initially, cultural historians examined the immediate societal impacts of the nuclear bomb. Later, environmental historians began to cover the environmental impacts of nuclear developments. Major environmental incidents during the 1960s and 1970s like the hazardous chemical dumping at Love Canal and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster brought attention to the potential devastation nuclear production could cause. In addition, FOIA requests during the 1980s revealed government attempts to cover up environmental contamination levels. For these reasons, historians extended the study of nuclear technology to include its environmental impacts. Additionally, the study of environmental justice continues to expand as other social sciences like sociology begin to contribute to the topic.