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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Roger Sherfield, 1986 [4]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Lord Roger Sherfield (Roger Makins) spent most of his career in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, serving as Ambassador to the United States from 1953-1956. He was Chairman of UK Atomic Energy Commission from 1960-1964. He starts the interview by recalling an unsuccessful meeting between Niels Bohr and Winston Churchill in London regarding the question of dissemination of nuclear information. He provides his reaction to Hiroshima and insights into British thinking about the advisability of using the bomb. He describes immediate post-war considerations concerning U.S.-British collaboration and information sharing on nuclear matters. After Congress made clear its desire to protect the American monopoly in the field, the British decided to pursue a full-scale weapons program. Others aspects of the issue, such as espionage, and their possible effects on U.S.-U.K. collaboration are also discussed. Lord Sherfield gives his views about the Baruch Plan and the difficulties it faced, largely resulting from the conditions of the Cold War. He discusses other significant events including the effect of the Klaus Fuchs episode and British reactions to Truman’s intimation that he might use nuclear weapons in Korea. He closes by recalling being in Moscow at the apex of the Cuban missile crisis and witnessing Khrushchev attend the opera and engage in a long conversation with the bass (an American) backstage despite the evident tensions of the crisis.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Roger Sherfield, 1986 [4]

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Moscow (Russia)
Maclean, Donald, 1913-1983
Fuchs, Klaus Emil Julius, 1911-1988
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Nuclear energy
Soviet Union
World War II
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
Nuclear weapons
Pearson, Lester B.
United States
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Attlee, C. R. (Clement Richard), 1883-1967
United Nations
Groves, Leslie Richard
Korean War, 1950-1953
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Great Britain
Deterrence (Strategy)
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Sherfield, Roger Mellor Makins, Baron, 1904- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Roger Sherfield, 1986 [4],” 03/24/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 12, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E667BEE99C1F4D4EB27D7DDDDC6A1A9B.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Roger Sherfield, 1986 [4].” 03/24/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 12, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E667BEE99C1F4D4EB27D7DDDDC6A1A9B>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Roger Sherfield, 1986 [4]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E667BEE99C1F4D4EB27D7DDDDC6A1A9B
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