1st Edition

British Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban 1954–1973
Britain, the United States, Weapons Policies and Nuclear Testing: Tensions and Contradictions

ISBN 9781138383975
Published June 6, 2019 by Routledge
406 Pages

USD $54.95

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Book Description

In 1962 Dean Acheson famously described Britain as having lost an Empire but not yet found a role. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the realms of nuclear weapons. An increasingly marginal world power, successive post-war British governments felt that an independent nuclear deterrent was essential if the country was to remain at the top table of world diplomacy. Focusing on a key twenty-year period, this study explores Britain's role in efforts to bring about a nuclear test ban treaty between 1954 and 1973. Taking a broadly chronological approach, it examines the nature of defence planning, the scientific goals that nuclear tests were designed to secure, Anglo-American relationships, the efficacy of British diplomacy and its contribution to arms control and disarmament. A key theme of the study is to show how the UK managed to balance the conflicting pressures created by its determination to remain a credible nuclear power whilst wanting to pursue disarmament objectives, and how these pressures shifted over the period in question. Based on a wealth of primary sources this book opens up the largely ignored subject of the impact of arms control on the UK nuclear weapons programme. Its appraisal of the relationship between the requirements and developments of the UK nuclear weapons programme against international and domestic pressures for a test ban treaty will be of interest to anyone studying post-war British defence and foreign policy, history of science, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation and international relations. It also provides important background information on current events involving nuclear proliferation and disarmament.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Chronology; Early pressures: 1954-1958; 1958: a decisive year; The testing moratorium and its constraints on UK weapons: 1958-1963; Diplomatic pressures and the testing moratorium: 1958-1961; Test-Ban Treaty verification and the role of seismology: UK efforts 1958-1965 The end of the testing moratorium 1961: UK responses; The UK and the Partial Test-Ban Treaty (PTBT): 1963; UK testing and future plans 1963-1965; UK CTBT policy 1965-1973; A static UK nuclear weapon development programme 1966-1973; Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.

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Dr John Walker works in the Arms Control and Disarmament Research Unit, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK.


'Nuclear-weapon proliferation and nuclear disarmament are clearly important topical issues and will remain so for some time. British Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban 1954-1973 is an extremely valuable resource for those interested in them. Politicians, students of international politics and international relations, journalists and interested members of the public will greatly benefit from reading it.' Medicine, Conflict and Survival 'In detailing British policy towards the test ban, and in mapping its potential and actual consequences as they were felt in Whitehall, Walker’s book sheds light on just how important this issue was for the easily-anxious in Britain’s nuclear world.' Journal of Transatlantic Studies