Kate Brown (2013)

The all-but-unknown history of the US and Soviet nuclear weapons programmes contains some amazing parallels illuminated in this book. To get workers to agree to the claustrophobic and restrictive conditions in the plutonium plants, both sets of authorities created model cities that (in the US case) became models for a lot of later “gated” communities, but also gave residents a taste of an almost European social model they were reluctant to give up. The Soviet example is even more dramatic, almost creating (as Brown calls it) “Socialism in one city”, a deft re-statement of Stalin’s controversial claim to be creating Socialism in one country: perhaps the system works best at small scales. The environmental costs of both programmes have been devastating, in financial and human terms, and have left a legacy that will be felt for centuries to come, but perhaps they serve best as political statements of how weapons created unexpected mini-societies.

5/5. Finished Saturday 11 November, 2017.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)