Jump-Starting Nuclear History

Article excerpt

Joseph H. Flom

1923-2011

Former chair, Woodrow Wilson Center

Board of Trustees

WHAT DO WOODROW WILSON Center staff do when they think a crucial academic field is underdeveloped? They try to jump-start it. That's the goal of the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP), a new initiative spearheaded by Christian Ostermann, director of the Center's History and Public Policy Program, and Leopoldo Nuti, who heads the Machiavelli Center for Cold War Studies, in Rome. The project is being funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Policymakers and academics who deal with nuclear proliferation usually focus on its security and conceptual dimensions. They don't draw much on the history of proliferation, though it can provide valuable insight into today's challenges. "Having a better understanding of why countries proliferate, or choose not to, or choose to proliferate and then change theft minds, can help officials craft better policies; says program associate Timothy McDonnell.

Project researchers will engage these questions in a manner foreign to policymakers but instinctive to historians: through archival research. Working closely with partner organizations, NPIHP will identify and promote opportunities for scholars to study nuclear-related documents in archives around the world. The project plans to make its Web site (www. …