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The British atomic bomb programme

The McMahon Act and its effects on Britain’s decision for an independent atomic programme
History Essay

  • Assessment: History Essay
  • Mark: A
  • Year: 2007
  • Wordcount: 4322

During and after 1946, the wartime alliance between Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union began to break down. Already shortly after the war, but particularly with the Berlin Blockade in 1948, the Soviet Union was accepted as the ‘enemy’ and Western Europe was regarded as the area of future conflicts. In September 1945, the Chiefs of Staff estimated that the Soviet Union was to be ready for this major war in the mid 1950s. As a consequence, one principal objective for the policy makers was the preparation of Britain’s forces to encounter this threat.
With the detonations of the American atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was clear that this bomb was the weapon of the future. The atomic bomb was superior to everything known hitherto and became “a symbol of great power and no state could risk being left without one” . In addition, it was originally believed that the bomb would result in reduction of the defence costs because it would replace manpower and other conventional military resources. In this sense, the atomic bomb transformed the nature of war and consequently the defence policies of Britain and several other countries. This is highlighted in the report on ‘Future development in Weapons and Methods of War’ by Henry Tizard, which states “if atomic energy can be released explosively, the character of war, the size and composition of military forces, and the scope of armament production will be completely changed” .
During the war Britain stood in close co-operation with the United States concerning nuclear development…

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