Understanding the imaginary war

Culture, thought and nuclear conflict, 1945-90

Edited by Matthew Grant and Benjamin Ziemann

Understanding the imaginary war


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3190-4
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £21.00
  • Published Date: July 2018
  • BIC Category: The Cold War, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Nuclear weapons, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, HISTORY / United States / 20th Century, HISTORY / Military / United States, HISTORY / Military / General, HISTORY / Military / Nuclear Warfare, HISTORY / General, Modern History, History, Social & cultural history, History
  • Series: Cultural History of Modern War


Understanding the imaginary war offers a fresh interpretation of the Cold War as an imaginary war, a conflict that had imaginations of nuclear devastation as one of its main battlegrounds. The book includes survey chapters and case studies on Western Europe, the USSR, Japan and the USA. Looking at various strands of intellectual debate and at different media, from documentary film to fiction, the chapters demonstrate the difficulties to make the unthinkable and unimaginable - nuclear apocalypse - imaginable. The book will be required reading for everyone who wants to understand the cultural dynamics of the Cold War through the angle of its core ingredient, nuclear weapons.


'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, Reviews in History

'The volume succeeds in providing a deeper understanding of the cultural responses to nuclear weapons and is an important entry in Cold War historiography, bridging the gap between political, cultural, psychological, and emotional interpretations of nuclear weapons.'
Emily Gibbs, University of Liverpool, Journal of Contemporary History


Introduction: The cold war as an imaginary war - Matthew Grant and Benjamin Ziemann
1. The apocalyptic fiction: shaping the future in the cold war - Eva Horn
2. Building peace, fearing the apocalypse: Nuclear danger in Soviet cold war culture, 1945-91 - Miriam Dobson
3. Nuclear themes in American culture, 1945 to the present - Paul Boyer
4. The imaginative landscape of nuclear war in Britain, 1945-65 - Matthew Grant
5. German angst? Debating cold war anxieties in West Germany, 1945-90 - Benjamin Ziemann
6. After Hiroshima. Günther Anders and the history of anti-nuclear critique - Jason Dawsey
7. Hiroshima/Nagasaki, civil rights and anti-war protest in Japan's cold war - Ann Sheriff
8. Catholic anti-communism, the bomb and perceptions of apocalypse in West Germany and the USA, 1945-90 - Daniel Gerster
9. 'The nuclear arms race is psychological at its roots.' Physicians and their therapies for the Cold War - Claudia Kemper
10. Imagining the apocalypse: nuclear winter in science and the world - Paul Rubinson
11. Images of nuclear war in U.S. government films from the early cold war - Lars Nowak


Matthew Grant is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Essex

Benjamin Ziemann is Professor of Modern German History at the University of Sheffield

Understanding the imaginary war

Edited by Matthew Grant, Benjamin Ziemann

Paperback £21.00 / $30.95

Hardcover £90.00 / $140.00

Or buy from your preferred bookseller:

Amazon Waterstones Blackwells

Click here for North and South America

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout