Paul Boyer, By The Bomb's Early Light:
American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985)
- In By The Bomb's Early Light, Paul Boyer examines the impact of the dropping of the atomic bombs on American culture in the early years of the Cold War period. Drawing upon a rich mixture of sources from cultural relics to government documents, Boyer corrects the image of American cultural history of the late 1950s and 1950s as somehow separate from consciousness about the impact of the atomic age.
- Questions to Think About:
- 1) What is Boyer's thesis in By The Bomb's Early Light? What is the distinctive contribution his study makes to our understanding of Cold War culture? (See the Elements of a Monograph for information about identifying thesis.)
- 2) How does Boyer's study interact with the historiography that preceded it? What are the weaknesses he identifies in earlier studies of Cold War culture? To what can one attribute these weaknesses?
- 3) According to Boyer, what has been the impact of the bomb on U.S. history?
- 4) Compare Boyer's assessment of the impact of the bomb with Fussell's assessment in "Thank God for the Atom Bomb." To what do you attribute their differing perspectives?
- 5) Examine Boyer's method in this study. What sorts of sources does he employ, and how does he "read" them? Does this method have strengths or weaknesses which seem important to you? (See the Elements of a Monograph for information about identifying method.)
Further resources and readings:
- Selections from James Ferrell's The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Truman and the Bomb, a Documentary History, with original documents.
- Linguafranca's March 1999 listing of Breakthrough Books about Nuclear Weapons, including Paul Boyer's recommendations.
- Paul Boyer, Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America's Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (1998)
- "Special Issue: "Hiroshima in History and Memory," Diplomatic History (Spring 1995).
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District Environmental Division Archives's Cold War Material Culture, "Looking Between Trinity and The Wall: Challenges of Cold War Cultural Resources."
- Bureau of Atomic Tourism website
- David Halberstam, The Fifties (1993)
- J. Ronald Oakley, God's Country: America in the Fifties (1986)
- Joel Foreman, ed., The Other Fifties: Interrogating Midcentury American Icons (1997)
- Alison M. Scott and Christopher D. Geist, eds., The Writing on the Cloud: American Culture Confronts the Atomic Bomb (1997)
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for HST 622 (Cold War America), at The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York, Summer Semester 2000. Send email to email@example.com
Last modified: Thursday 15 June 2000.