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By the Bomb's Early Light

Originally published in 1985, "By the Bomb's Early Light" is the first book to explore the cultural 'fallout' in America during the early years of the atomic age. Paul Boyer argues that the major aspects of the long-running debates about nuclear armament and disarmament developed and took shape soon after the bombing of Hiroshima.

The book is based on a wide range of sources, including cartoons, opinion polls, radio programs, movies, literature, song lyrics, slang, and interviews with leading opinion-makers of the time. Through these materials, Boyer shows the surprising and profoundly disturbing ways in which the bomb quickly and totally penetrated the fabric of American life, from the chillingly prophetic forecasts of observers like Lewis Mumford to the Hollywood starlet who launched her career as the 'anatomic bomb.'

In a new preface, Boyer discusses recent changes in nuclear politics and attitudes toward the nuclear age.

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About the Author

Paul Boyer is Merle Curti Professor of History and director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture.


Of the many books inspired by the 40-year anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, this certainly is one of the best. Boyer, an adept cultural historian, unravels the diverse reactions to the advent of the nuclear era between 1945 and 1950. The enormity of what had occurred caused disorientation among intellectuals and the general public alike. Basic beliefs wavered, contradictions emerged, and attitudes changed in a short period of time. Boyer traces scientific, literary, philosophical, and religious implications of the new weapon, revealing his own wit and commitment as well as historical skill. His neglect of the emergence of Abstract Expressionism as a major cultural response to the bomb stands as one of the few shortcomings in this fine, readable book. Highly recommended. Charles K. Piehl, Director of Grants Management, Mankato State Univ., Minn.

Very well written. . . . Both far-ranging and "Very well written. . . . Both far-ranging and thorough." A highly perceptive, well-researched, and eloquent, often passionate, account.--"American Historical Review" Sobering. . . . [A] rich and disturbing chronicle.--"Newsweek"

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