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Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford Nuclear Age Series) Paperback – May 12, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0804756327 ISBN-10: 0804756325

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Product Details

  • Series: Stanford Nuclear Age Series
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804756325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804756327
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Confronting the Bomb is a magnificent and engaging history of one of the most important movements in the past eighty years--the movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons. . . .  Its ebbs and flows, victories and defeats, strengths and shortcomings, are all described with skill and passion."--Peace Magazine

"This book tells the remarkable story of how the antinuclear movement . . . fought against the advent, proliferation and use of nuclear weapons. . . . [It] is a must-read."--Journal of Peace Research

"Wittner retains the impressive breadth of focus from [his] earlier works—and rightly so in the history of a global phenomenon . . . Wittner expertly anatomizes not only the various phases of protest and the different national organizations but also the suspicion with which these activities were regarded in official circles on both sides of the Cold War divide."—Andrew G. Bone, Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies

"Wittner's book offers two great contributions to the literature of war and peace. First, he demonstrates that the nuclear disarmament movement has played enormously influential roles, both in holding back the most worrisome policies, postures, and deployments, and in preventing global thermonuclear war. Second, Wittner unearths a long-forgotten but indisputable history: political thinkers and activists at the dawn of the nuclear age offered a comprehensive and wonderful vision—not only a world without nuclear weapons, but a world without armies, and a world without war."—Tad Daley, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

"Lawrence Wittner has done the world a favor by condensing his award-winning comprehensive three-volume history, The Struggle Against the Bomb, into this compact text."—Eddy MacGregor, Fellowship

"Anyone serious about world federalism and the peace movement cannot afford to miss this book . . . It would be ideal for adoption as a course book in any college courses on the peace issue."—Jame T. Ranney, Minerva: World Federalist Institute.

"In his latest book, Wittner gives us something no one has ever shown us. He chronicles how global civil society grew its own capacity to stop the rulers—in democracies and dictatorships alike—from firing the omnicidal weaponry the rulers developed. If you've ever signed a petition, voted against nukes in a referendum, been to an anti-nuclear demonstration, written a letter opposing any piece of the nuclear arsenal, gone to visit a politician to lobby against any atomic bomb component, or been arrested for your nonviolent refusal to let them do this bad business in your name, this book is for you."—The Peaceworker

About the Author

Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at the State University of New York, Albany, and a former president of the Peace History Society. He is the author of a scholarly trilogy, published by Stanford University Press -- The Struggle Against the Bomb: One World or None (1993), Resisting the Bomb (1997), and Toward Nuclear Abolition (2003) -- that provides the basis for Confronting the Bomb. A recipient of numerous awards, he is the author or editor of twelve books, the writer of hundreds of published articles and book reviews, and a guest lecturer in many nations. He has also been an active participant in the peace, racial equality, and labor movements and currently serves as a national board member of Peace Action and as executive secretary of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.  His latest book, an autobiography, is published by the University of Tennessee Press and is entitled:  Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (2012).

More About the Author

Lawrence S. Wittner is an American historian who has written primarily on peace movements and foreign policy. He attended Columbia College (B.A., 1962), the University of Wisconsin (M.A., 1963), and Columbia University (Ph.D., 1967). Subsequently, he taught at Hampton Institute, at Vassar College, and -- under the Fulbright program -- at Japanese universities. In 1974, he began teaching at the State University of New York/Albany, where he rose to the rank of Professor of History before his retirement in 2010. He is the author of eight scholarly books, the editor or co-editor of another four, the writer of a novel, and the author of over 250 published articles and book reviews. Currently, he serves as the executive secretary of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) and as a national board member of Peace Action. For more information, visit:

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James T. Ranney on September 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Since 1983, I have read several thousand books on "the peace issue." I was also permitted to teach a seminar on "Law and World Peace." I have founded or co-founded several peace groups (Montana Lawyers for Peace; Jeannette Rankin Peace Center; and Global Constitution Forums). Wittner's new synopsis of his earlier 3-volume work is the BEST of the books I have read. You would not think that a mere "history," however good (and it is fabulous), could possibly convey so much substantive information re various doctrines and strategies, but it does. Most of all, what this book does is provide a "roadmap for social change," it gives both academics and activists and just ordinary citizens multiple clues as to "what to do." So, for those seeking this kind of strategic insight, this is the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Scott H. Bennett on August 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
In Confronting the Bomb, historian Lawrence S. Wittner provides an abridgement of his massive, award-winning Struggle against the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement trilogy (1993-2003). Based on the records of disarmament organizations, previously secret government documents, interviews with antinuclear activists and government officials, peace movement periodicals, and memoirs, Struggle examines both top down government policies and bottom up citizen activism. It chronicles scores of antinuclear organizations and individuals over six decades of global antinuclear activism. This well-written, persuasively-argued book is a pleasure to read--and it will appeal to general readers and experts alike.

Wittner opens with a central question: "How should we account for the fact that, since 1945, the world had avoided nuclear war?" Furthermore, why have nuclear nations adopted nuclear arms control and disarmament measures? He rejects the conventional interpretation that holds that nuclear weapons have "deterred" nations from waging war. Instead, he argues that a mass nuclear disarmament movement has mobilized millions of people worldwide and has pressured governments to adopt nuclear disarmament agreements. In short, Wittner contends that the antinuclear movement--not "peace through strength"--has saved the world from nuclear Armageddon.

In addition, Wittner challenges U.S. Cold War "triumphalism"--the notion that American
political will and military might, in particular Reagan's enormous arms buildup and military spending, precipitated the Soviet collapse and enabled the United States to win the Cold War. Instead, he credits Gorbachev, along with the antinuclear movement that influenced him, for taking the steps that ended the Cold War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Roth on July 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, Lawrence Wittner tells the captivating story of the transnational nuclear disarmament movement. An abbreviated version of his award winning trilogy, The Struggle Against the Bomb, this book is based on substantial research into previously top secret government documents, the files of disarmament and peace organizations, and many interviews with government officials and nuclear disarmament group leaders. Through the viewpoints of key international actors, Confronting the Bomb provides rare insights into the power of transnational movements to shift government policy, and the successes and failures of the international disarmament movement.

Wittner begins this historical journey with the creation and first use of nuclear technology as a weapon, thereby setting the stage to chronicle both government and public attitudes about the atomic bomb, and to demonstrate how the transnational disarmament movement developed as a direct response to those attitudes. From the bomb's inception, there was a burgeoning activist movement. In the first section, a vivid account details the early misgivings of the scientific community. Members of the Manhattan Project expressly warned the U.S. government of the dangers of nuclear technology and its use as a weapon. As the forefathers of the disarmament movement, nuclear scientists made early attempts to establish international controls on nuclear weapons and to prevent proliferation. Yet such cautions and attempts were strongly suppressed by government officials who only saw the power behind the bomb.
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