Cold War: Nuclear politics in the 1950s and 1960s Return to the gallery menu
Worksheets Big Question    

What are the key points arising from Case study 1 which every visitor should know about?


* Source 1 Source 2 Source 3 Source 4 Source 5 Source 6

To take a closer look at these two posters click on them to see an enlarged view. You might think that you are in the WW2 gallery, looking at posters saying to be careful about spies. In fact, they date from the late 1960s. There was a lot of spying during the Cold War. Some of it was by humans, other spying was carried out by technology like the U2 spy plane or satellites. One of the main targets for spies was information about nuclear technology. But nuclear weapons created other types of rivalry and conflict as well.

There was a scientific rivalry as to which side could develop the most powerful weapons. The USA developed an atom bomb in 1945, the USSR in 1949. By the early 1960s both sides had thermonuclear Hydrogen Bombs - many times more powerful than atom bombs. Both sides developed sophisticated technology to hit the other side's targets. Both had long-range bombers. Soon these were less important because of the development of fast, accurate, long range missiles. By the mid 1960s the deadliest weapons of all were submarine launched missiles, virtually impossible to detect.


There was also political rivalry between the different sides. Each side built up its stocks of nuclear weapons. Of course, the weapons were not aggressive, they were there to deter the other side from using their weapons. So each side talked about its nuclear deterrent. Neither side would use its weapons because the whole world would be destroyed. This policy was also known as MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction. As you would expect, there was plenty of propaganda as both sides announced their triumphs and tried to keep quiet about their disasters. The two sides often talked to each other about disarmament, but progress was often slow or non-existent.

Your Task
In this case study you are going to look at sources which cover all of these issues, but will focus on these broad areas:

  • The power of nuclear weapons
  • Whether there was any defence against these weapons
  • Attempts at limiting nuclear weapons.

At the end of the case study you will have to decide what you will write in your soundtrack for the presentation.

The worksheet will help you to organise your work.