Global Politics of Nuclear Weapons


This module examines the historical and structural, institutional and normative aspects of global nuclear order. Controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction and eliminating existing arsenals remains a fundamental challenge for global and regional security and continues to shape international security threat perceptions and actions of powerful states in unpredictable and often destabilising ways. The module will explore: the history of the nuclear age; theories of nuclear deterrence, nuclear proliferation, counter-proliferation, nuclear abstinence, and nuclear disarmament; and the global politics of nuclear weapons since 9/11. Seminars will explore critical nuclear controversies to apply conceptual and empirical understanding to specific cases, such as Iran’s nuclear programme; the A. Q. Khan network; the UK, Trident and nuclear identities; and civil society and nuclear disarmament. It will be helpful to have some background in international relations.

ConvenorDr Nick Ritchie

One term (Autumn)

20 credit module
Formative requirements:
Active involvement in seminars. One 1,000 word essay to be submitted by Friday of week 8 of the autumn term.
Assessment method:
One essay of up to 3,000 words to be submitted on Monday, Week 1, Spring Term.

Preliminary Reading

  • Andrew Futter, The Politics of Nuclear Weapons (London: Sage, 2015)
  • Scott Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate, 3rd edn. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012).
  • Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 3rd edn. (London: Macmillan for International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2004).
  • William Walker, A Perpetual Menace: Nuclear Weapons and International Order (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011).
  • William Potter and Gaukar Mukhatzhanova (eds), Forecasting Nuclear Proliferation in the 21st Century (Volumes 1 and 2 (Stanford: Standford University Press, 2010).


Dr Nick Ritchie
Tel: 01904 324104