Why did Britain decide in 1947 to build an atomic bomb? What military plans were there for using it? This neglected dimension of British nuclear policy is assessed in detail for the first time, using confidential records - including those of the Chiefs of Staff - which have become available for the entire post-war decade. The emergence and evolution of British strategic ideas about nuclear deterrence and targeting are documented and analysed
by Ian Clark and Nicholas J. Wheeler, who also argue that British thinking was distinctive and made a much more substantial impact on nuclear strategy than American accounts would suggest. They reveal
that, from a perspective unique to British circumstances and traditions, British officials made a significant contribution to early thinking about nuclear weapons. This study covers the early shift from a 'countervalue' to a damage limitation targeting posture, the assessment of the Soviet threat, the impact of the Korean War, the Global Strategy Paper of 1952, the decision to manufacture a hydrogen weapon in 1954, and the inter-service rivalries in the mid-1950s about
the nature and size of the British strategic force. As well as providing a survey of British thinking, it is unusual in its focus on strategic comparisons between Britain and the United States.
'Clark and Wheeler have produced a lucid and perceptive analysis and have done so in a scholarly and systematic manner.'
Times Higher Education Supplement
'essential reading for specialists in military strategy and historians'
Christopher Meredith, World Disarm
'interesting book ... the two authors have succeeded in presenting, in chronological sequence, a coherent reconstruction of the principal strands of British thought about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy in this early period ... Their style is refreshingly free of jargon and their research is scholarly.'
Robin Edmonds, Survival
'There are a number of fascinating historical insights here ... which will offer useful evidence both for those who would develop nuclear strategic thinking and those who would debunk it.'
Michael Clarke, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Political Studies
`a fascinating book ... Most of the work is based on a careful and detailed study of the pertinent official documents which are preserved in the Public Record Office at Kew. Indeed, the authors provide a helpful and interesting `Note on the Official Records' at the end of their book, which is written solely for technical experts in their field.'
The International History Review
`the research is prodigious and based on recently opened documents at the Public Records Office. The result is an important addition to cold war historiography'
American Historical Review
'This volume, as well as offering the first independent and detailed historical assessment of Britain's first decade of nuclear planning, forms part of a welcome expansion in British strategic history ... a major contribution to our understanding of the shifts in British strategic thinking during a decade when the foundations of Britain's nuclear force were laid.'
Richard J. Aldrich, History
'This book constitutes a major contribution to our understanding of the shifts in British strategic thinking during a decade when the foundations of Britain's nuclear force were laid.'
Richard J. Aldrich, History
Acknowledgements; Introduction; Britain's strategic legacy; Atomic decisions and threat assessment; British origins of nuclear deterrence 1945-6; The doctrine of damage limitation 1946-9; Operational planning and Anglo-American strategic co-ordination 1945-50; Korea and Anglo-American nuclear strategy 1950-2; The global strategy paper and the United States `New Look'; Mass destruction, nuclear war-fighting and delivery systems 1953-5; The hydrogen
bomb and deterrence in concert 1954-5; Conclusion