How close were we to Armageddon? 50 years on, why should we still study the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Sep 19, 2012

Why, fifty years on, is the Cuban Missile Crisis still a subject of considerable fascination for academics and professionals alike? Should we still be studying it, and if so, how? These are just some of the questions addressed in a special issue in the journal International Relations.

As one of the most intensely studied events of the twentieth century, the Cuban Missile Crisis could suffer from "over examination", yet as Guest Editor Len Scott, Professor of International Politics and Dean of at Aberystwyth University, remarks: "While all historiography may be revisionist in intent, the missile crisis provides much ammunition for those who question whether 'the truth' can be found'". While new information has clarified or changed our understanding fundamental debates remain over key issues, the interpretations of historians and the models of . As such these interpretations require revisiting and revising.

In this special issue leading American, British, Russian and Canadian scholars revisit key texts in our understanding of the crisis in the light of new understanding of how Khrushchev and Kennedy took their decisions, and how subordinate actions and processes threatened to take the world beyond the brink into nuclear Armageddon. Much of what has been learned over the past few decades has reinforced the view that we were closer to the brink than realised, and this is what Scott argues deserves our attention moving forwards:

"The more we learn about the risk of inadvertent nuclear war the less we should see as epiphenomenal in the Cold War. Whatever the role of in the Cold War we need to understand that nuclear deterrence (however conceived) was an independent variable and perhaps a social construct in its own right. So long as we confront the problems created by nuclear weapons, we should strengthen our commitment to studying the Cuban missile crisis".

Explore further: New 'Surveyman' software promises to revolutionize survey design and accuracy

More information: "Fifty Years Beyond the Brink: Writing the Cuban Missile Crisis", guest edited by Len Scott and published on 19 September 2012 in International Relations.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China's nuclear dilemma

Sep 14, 2012

An expert assessment of China's nuclear weapons strategy highlights the risk of escalation to nuclear war from a conflict beginning with conventional weapons, due to the unusual structure of the nation's military. The new ...

Mankind must abandon earth or face extinction: Hawking

Aug 09, 2010

Mankind's only chance of long-term survival lies in colonising space, as humans drain Earth of resources and face a terrifying array of new threats, warned British scientist Stephen Hawking on Monday.

Nuclear weapons' surprising contribution to climate science

Jul 13, 2012

Nuclear weapons testing may at first glance appear to have little connection with climate change research. But key Cold War research laboratories and the science used to track radioactivity and model nuclear bomb blasts have ...

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

Oct 23, 2014

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

Oct 23, 2014

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

Oct 23, 2014

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet Sep 19, 2012
I had to laugh at this one. My personal opinion of the substantiality of homo 'sapiens' is awfully low. I'm pretty sure we will do ourselves in .. probably sooner rather than later.