CfP: Cold War Chemistry and Molecular Sciences

Cold War Chemistry and Molecular Sciences. Contending Bids for European Hegemony, 1945-1985 (session proposed for the 13th International Conference on the History of Chemistry by the Commission on the History of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences [CHCMS], in IUHPST/DHST)


Organizers:  Brigitte Van Tiggelen, President, CHCMS; Ernst Homburg, Treasurer, CHCMS


The 13 ICHC will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 23 to 27 May 2023 (see the website here).  The CHCMS invites interested scholars in the history of modern chemistry and molecular sciences to submit papers for a session dealing with case studies from the period of the Cold War in Europe, which may cover the period from the late 1940s to the early 1980s.  In this session, we propose to revisit the question of the reshaping of science and technology in postwar Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and the division of the continent into competing blocs dominated by the USA and the USSR.  Much of the scholarship on the Cold War science and technology has focused primarily on the American and Soviet contexts, with relatively few studies of their interaction with and influence on developments in other countries of Eastern and Western Europe.  One of the principal examples of the latter is John Krige, American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe (MIT Press, 2008), which sets forth the interesting notion of “consensual hegemony” in discussing the role of US financial support for a limited number of Western European national and international institutions and disciplines during the early Cold War.     But Krige’s study, while suggestive, is by no means comprehensive (its principal cases examine physics and molecular biology in France, Denmark, and Switzerland), and its thesis is inherently one-sided.  Hence we would welcome comparative and critical studies that would examine chemistry and related molecular sciences in other European institutional contexts.  Such studies might include cases taken not only from the Western European nations aligned with the USA, but also from neutral countries and from nations of the Soviet bloc, and they might consider both academic and industrial developments.  Our purpose will be to highlight tensions between institutional styles, research agendas, and technological developments emanating from the hegemonic powers vs. tendencies to preserve existing national and regional patterns, so as to better understand the nature of “scientific hegemony” during the Cold War.


Abstracts must be submitted to Ernst Homburg using the required template, found here.  The deadline for submitting a proposal for our session is 6 January 2023, given that the final deadline for CHCMS to submit a panel to the ICHC program committee will be 9 January 2023.​