17.951 Nuclear Weapons in International Politics: Past, Present and Future

As taught in: Spring 2009

Two aerial photographs of Nagasaki, Japan. One shows the city with buildings and roads, and the latter shows the city completely wiped out.

Aerial photographs of Nagasaki, Japan before and after the atomic bombing on August 9, 1945. (Photo courtesy of the United States Federal Government.)


Undergraduate / Graduate


Prof. Owen Cote

Prof. James Walsh

Course Features

Course Description

This course will expose students to tools and methods of analysis for use in assessing the challenges and dangers associated with nuclear weapons in international politics. The first two weeks of the course will look at the technology and design of nuclear weapons and their means of production. The next five weeks will look at the role they played in the Cold War, the organizations that managed them, the technologies that were developed to deliver them, and the methods used to analyze nuclear force structures and model nuclear exchanges. The last six weeks of the course will look at theories and cases of nuclear decision making beyond the original five weapon states, and will look particularly at why states pursue or forego nuclear weapons, the role that individuals and institutions play, and the potential for both new sources of proliferation and new consequences.