Understanding the imaginary war

Culture, thought and nuclear conflict, 1945–90

This volume takes the metaphorical character of the Cold War seriously and charts how the bomb was used as a symbol for nuclear war at the very heart of this conflict. The contributions consider the historical relevance of the political, cultural and artistic ramifications of nuclear weapons as signifiers for a new type of conflict. Tis understanding of the metaphorical qualities of the Cold War is encapsulated in the notion of an imaginary war, or, more precisely, a war against the imagination. As an attack against the imagination, the nuclear threat forced politicians and ordinary people to accept the notion that preparations for nuclear annihilation would contribute towards peace, and that the existence of these weapons, and the anticipation of large-scale destruction that came with them, were an inescapable corollary of security, freedom and future prosperity on both sides of the Cold war divide.

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‘Understanding the Imaginary War is useful both as a historical tool, but also as a reminder that nuclear weapons still exist, and that nuclear war is still a very real possibility. If anything, the current political situation between Russia and the United States, and especially the inclusion of Article 27 in Russia's 2014 Military Doctrine relating to the possibility of using nuclear weapons to respond to a conventional attack, shows that emotions felt during the Cold War still affect contemporary relations.'
April Curtis

‘The book's fresh approach to the topic and wide range of perspectives will be welcomed by all with an interest in history, political science and cultural studies, and in particular by those of us interested in the Cold War and the history of nuclear weapons.'
Dr Mattias Eken, University of St Andrews
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