Nuclear Weapons in International Politics: Past, Present and Future

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.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2009



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Course Description

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.

Related Content

Owen Cote, and James Walsh. 17.951 Nuclear Weapons in International Politics: Past, Present and Future. Spring 2009. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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