Writing Pugwash Histories. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Kabul and Gaza

Writing Pugwash Histories. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Kabul and Gaza

Silke Fengler / Carola Sachse, Department of Contemporary History, University of Vienna, Austria; Alison Kraft, Egenis, University of Exeter, UK; Holger Nehring, University of Sheffield, Arbeitskreis Historische Friedensforschung
Vienna, Austria
Vom - Bis
10.05.2012 - 12.05.2012
Silke Fengler

Among the various national and transnational groupings working against nuclear war, the Pugwash movement stands out. Even today, it evokes the July 1955 manifesto that was drafted by Bertrand Russell and co-signed by Albert Einstein just before his death. The movement took its name from the location of its first meeting, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia in summer 1957. So far, 59 “Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs” and numerous workshops have been held in various regions of the world. From the beginning, the movement aimed to bring together eminent scientists, scholars, politicians, diplomats and government advisers across the hostile frontiers of the Cold War. The “Pugwashites” wanted to go beyond the exchange of diplomatic notes or military force, instead using the shared language of science to evaluate the risks of nuclear armament, develop solutions to regional conflicts and exert influence on national governments with the goal of promoting world peace. The themes addressed by the Pugwash conferences have diversified to reflect the changing problems facing international politics – climate change; crises of energy, food and natural resources. Since the movement was founded its membership structure has also changed, as have the scientific disciplines and professions of its members, its objectives, methods and modes of cooperation, and its role within the debates of global politics.

To date, the history of the Pugwash movement has been told largely through chronological accounts, memoirs and partial studies of national Pugwash groups. Writing a comprehensive history of the movement is perhaps not possible at the present time. On the one hand, the informal structure of the Pugwash movement means it is known only to a relatively small audience, and has attracted little attention from historians even since the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the movement and its secretary general, Joseph Rotblat, in 1995. On the other, although the Pugwash movement has an international presence, it is embedded in very different scientific, social and political configurations in different countries and regions. As a result, it seems neither possible nor desirable to write a single, unified narrative of the movement's peace-policy successes and global political significance. Instead, what we need are multi-faceted histories written from a range of distinct national and regional perspectives. Only in this way will historians be able to fully understand the distinctive character of the Pugwash movement in the long term, its survival through time and across such profound political changes and its contributions to international dialogue. From its inception, Pugwash oscillated between an elitist claim to universal scientific expertise, links with transnational movements for peace and against nuclear weapons, and integration into the local political establishments. It therefore offers an outstanding opportunity to consider national and international connections between science and politics, which became increasingly complex during the second half of the twentieth century. Analysing these interrelations from a transnational perspective necessitates a large, cooperative network of historians, able to take a range of different thematic and regional approaches.


Thursday, 10 May 2012


14:00 Welcome Addresses

14:00-14:10 Carola Sachse (Vienna, Austria)
14:10-14:20 Holger Nehring (Sheffield, UK)

14:20-14:50 Paolo Cotta-Ramusino “Pugwash: From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Kabul and Gaza” (Pugwash Secretary General, Rome, Italy)

15:00 – 17:00
Panel 1
Early History of the Pugwash Movement
Chair: Reiner Braun (Berlin, Germany)
Commentator: Sandra Ionno Butcher (London, UK)

Christoph Laucht (Leeds, UK)
A Prelude to Pugwash: The Atomic Scientists’ Association and the British Origins of the Pugwash Movement

Geoffrey Roberts (Cork, Ireland)
The Communist Peace Movement and the Origins of Pugwash, 1948-1956

Elisabeth Röhrlich (Vienna, Austria)
Communists, Radicals, and Conservatives: The Pugwash Movement and the Scientific Mega Events of 1958

17:00 – 18:00 Coffee break

18:00 Moderation Carola Sachse (Vienna, Austria)

Keynote: Matthew Evangelista (Cornell University, NY, USA)
“How Scientists Helped End the Cold War: Approaches to "Pugwash History"

20:00 Reception

Friday Morning, 11 May 2012

9:00 – 11:00
Panel 2
Chair: Gerhard Botz (Vienna, Austria)
Commentator: Ulrich Bartosch (Berlin, Germany)

Andrew Brown (Manchester, NH, USA)
The Biographical Approach to Pugwash History

Lodovica Clavarino (Rome, Italy)
An Italian Pugwash History: Amaldi´s Pacifist Choice Based on Pragmatism and Optimism

Gordon Barrett (Bristol, UK)
Zhou Peiyuan, the Pugwash Conferences and the Politics of Science in the People’s Republic of China, 1957-1964

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:00
Panel 3
Country-Specific Topics I
Chair: Oliver Rathkolb (Vienna, Austria)
Commentator: Mitchell G. Ash (Vienna, Austria)

Akira Kurosaki (Fukushima, Japan)
Japanese Scientists' Critique of Nuclear Deterrence and Pugwash, 1954-1964

Julia Kleinschmidt (Göttingen, Germany)
The Politics of Science – Or: Struggling with the Past: German Scientists and the Founding Fathers of the Pugwash Movement

13:00 – 15:00 Lunch Break

Friday Afternoon, 11 May 2012

15:00 – 17:00
Panel 4
Country-specific Topics II
Chair: Holger Nehring (Sheffield, UK)
Commentator: Kristine C. Harper (Tallahassee, FL, USA)

Doubravka Olšáková (Prague, Czech Republic)
“We are not going to Moscow!” The Czechoslovak Pugwash Movement and Soviet Interests

Jahnavi Phalkey (London, UK)
Science and the Global Politics of Peace in Cold War India

Ronald E. Doel (Tallahassee, FL, USA)
The Pugwash Movement and U.S. Debates over Scientific Internationalism: Strategic Perceptions from the White House

Saturday Morning, 12 May 2012

9:00 – 11:00
Panel 5
Country-Specific Topics III
Chair: Walter Kutschera (Vienna, Austria)
Commentator: Michael Eckert (Munich, Germany)

Alison Kraft (Exeter, UK)
Pugwash and the Politics of Fallout: A British Perspective

Silke Fengler (Vienna, Austria)
Honest Brokers: The Pugwash Movement in Cold War Austria

Carola Sachse (Vienna, Austria)
The Max Planck Society and Pugwash: An Uneasy Relationship?

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 12:15
Conclusions and Open Questions
Commentator: John Krige (Atlanta, GA, USA)
Commentator: Holger Nehring (Sheffield, UK)

12:15 – 13:30
Final Session
“Looking Forward: Challenges for Future Histories and Establishing A Pugwash Histories Network“
Sandra Ionno Butcher in conversation with Paolo Cotta-Ramusino

13:30 End of Workshop


Silke Fengler

Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 1
1090 Wien, Österreich


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