• An accessible and eye-opening background to the most deadly weapon ever invented
  • Examines important and recurring questions about the role of nuclear weapons in modern-day international relations
  • Explores the global history of the early arms races, beginning with the Hiroshima decision, through to the dawn of nuclear deterrence politics, the Cold War, to what lies ahead
  • Places the enduring problems of nuclear weapons policy over the past few deacdes into an historical and global context
  • Examines all issues, from the legacy of missile defence systems and Star Wars, to the current debate regarding terrorism and nuclear alarmism
  • Part of the bestselling Very Short Introductionsseries - over seven million copies sold

New to this Edition:

  • Includes an up-to-date examination of American foreign policy under Obama and American's revised nuclear position
  • Includes a new chapter 7, focussing on the significant lessons to be learnt from the history of the nuclear weapons era
  • Examining the historical impact of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this new edition emphasizes the importance of an historical understanding of global nuclear policies

Despite not having been used in anger since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic bomb is still the biggest threat that faces us in the 21st century. As Bill Clinton's first secretary of defence, Les Aspin, aptly put it: 'The Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more. But the post-Cold War world is decidedly not post-nuclear'. For all the effort to reduce nuclear stockpiles to zero, it seems that the bomb is here to stay. This Very Short Introductionreveals why. 

The history and politics of the bomb are explained: from the technology of nuclear weapons, to the revolutionary implications of the H-bomb, and the politics of nuclear deterrence. The issues are set against a backdrop of the changing international landscape, from the early days of development through the Cold War. In this new edition, Joseph M. Siracusa includes a new concluding chapter, moving away from the emphasis of nuclear weapons in the 'age of terrorism', to the significant lessons to be learnt from the history of the nuclear weapons era. Siracusa shows that because 21st century nuclear proliferation has deep roots in the past, an understanding of the lessons of this nuclear history is paramount for future global policies to be successful.


1: What are nuclear weapons?
2: Building the bomb
3: 'A choice between the quick and the dead'
4: Race for the H-bomb
5: Nuclear deterrence and arms control
6: Star wars and beyond
7: Reflections on the atomic age
References and further reading


Joseph M. Siracusa, Professor in Human Security and International Diplomacy and Deputy Dean of Global and Language Studies, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Australia
Joseph M. Siracusa is Professor in Human Security and International Diplomacy and Deputy Dean of Global and Language Studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia. A native of Chicago and long-time resident of Australia, he studied at the University of Denver and the University of Vienna and received his PhD from the University of Colorado (Boulder). The author and co-author of numerous books, he is internationally known for his writings on the history of nuclear weapons, diplomacy, and global security.


Joseph M. Siracusa





Nuclear Weapons: a Very Short Introduction (2nd edition)