In 1995 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its Nobel Peace Prize, “in two equal parts, to Joseph Rotblat and to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.” Rotblat, who had worked on the Allied nuclear bomb effort during World War II, resigned in the 1940s when it became clear to him that Germany would not develop nuclear weapons. Instead, he commenced work on arms control efforts. Who were the scientists involved in Pugwash? What stimulated their involvement in arms control activities? How did they bridge the gulf in understandings between the superpowers and reconcile their own beliefs in the largely apolitical nature of science with the clearly political activities in which they were involved? The authors of this edited volume on the Pugwash organization answer these and other questions. The volume traces how Pugwash became a more formal organization and how its activities were followed, pursued, and criticized in various national contexts.

Pugwash grew from a 1955 manifesto, authored by physicist Albert Einstein and the logician Bertrand Russell, calling for an end to manufacturing, testing, and accumulation of ever more powerful nuclear weapons. They recognized that the arms race was a threat to world civilization, including through radiological poisoning. The manifesto appealed to all world governments and led to renewed efforts to achieve arms control among specialists, in particular among scientists East and West. Over the next two years, the signatories and other individuals planned a conference to achieve arms control. Eventually held in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, in July 1957, the conference relied on the financial support of industrialist Cyrus Wheaton, whose activities and interests are covered in one chapter of Science, (Anti-)Communism and Diplomacy.

The Pugwash conferences were then held once or twice yearly, with attendance strictly by invitation. Working groups, study groups, and symposia contributed significantly to the success of the organization to reach and exchange views across national and ideological divides. The volume shows the importance of semi-official contacts in stimulating arms control discussions. For example, physicist Victor Weisskopf, among others, used contacts with Soviet Pugwashites in an attempt to shape the thinking of influential Soviet politicians who saw Pugwash as connected with their objectives of “peaceful coexistence” and later détente.

Each chapter is well-written, thoughtful, and carefully considered, dealing with issues raised and covered in the other chapters. The authors provide rich detail and thorough analysis on Pugwash between the superpowers; the role of such important actors as Eaton and Frédéric Joliot-Curie; Soviet and U.S. scientists; anti-Communism and anti-Americanism; and the influence of Pugwash in Austria, Czechoslovakia, East and West Germany, and the United States. Each chapter focuses mostly on the early period (1955–1965) of Pugwash. One essay focuses on the challenges of engaging and reengaging Chinese specialists across 25 years of economic, political, and social upheaval in the People's Republic of China. Another explores the active response of the Czechoslovak Pugwash group beginning in the Khrushchev era, after the end of the extreme secrecy of the Stalin era, and the recognition that science was international and that its practitioners had an important role to play in the Communist world. Even though no one doubted that the Soviet Union sought to control and direct the foreign policy of countries under its control, the Czechoslovak committee was highly active until the Soviet invasion in 1968.

The book thus explores how science, diplomacy and anti-Communism were carried out in a highly politicized space of East-West arms control. The authors examine manipulation by Moscow and anti-Communist fervor in the West, where many individuals saw “peace” as a tool of Soviet propaganda. Some of the individuals active in Pugwash worried about Communist influence, and several of them early on attacked Eaton in the hope of distancing him from future activities in the organization. Collectively, the authors study how scientists struggled with their own prejudices and with the certainty that arms control might be carried out without political interference. They claimed that their techno-scientific expertise would enable disarmament. They believed that their training and methods and the language of science would assist in this effort of overcoming national and political allegiances, allowing them to come to Pugwash as individuals, independent of any nation-state. They also proclaimed a broader social responsibility for the effort. They were internationalist in ideology and committed to the worldwide community to end the threats of war and fallout and achieve verifiable treaties based on mutual trust. Still, the major actors found they could not remain politically neutral in the Cold War environment, even as they sought autonomy and agency founded on mutual respect and their honor and integrity as scientists. They also continued to act along national and bloc lines and maintained their loyalties, but the myth of autonomy and objectivity kept the endeavor going.

Each chapter of Science, (Anti-)Communism and Diplomacy makes an original contribution and is well written and based on archival research. The book is complemented by a thorough index, and each chapter has its own bibliography. The book will be of interest to historians and other social scientists in such fields as Cold War history, diplomatic history, and the history of science, technology, and society. It achieves the authors’ hopes of contributing to transnational history by moving away from a focus exclusively on state actors in this field. All readers interested in these subjects should read, at the very least, the editors’ introductory chapter, which is not only engaging and illuminating but a model of clarity and stage-setting for an edited volume.