Alison Kraft

Photo: Alison KraftDr. Alison Kraft


Between Science and Politics in the two Germanies: Pugwash and the East-West divide, 1955-1977

Dr Alison Kraft's current project seeks to develop a new understanding of the contribution of elite scientists involved in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (Pugwash) to conflict moderation in the period 1955-1977. Focusing on Pugwash in the GDR and in the Federal Republic of Germany and using material from archives in Germany and further afield, the research will analyse how far German scientists working within Pugwash were able to transcend political differences and ideological ties in order to forge dialogue across this sharpest of Cold War divides. It will explore the factors influencing how/when Pugwash engaged with the German question as well as asking how the "German problem" shaped its development during the 1960s and 1970s. The project will also examine the extent to which German scientists involved in Pugwash could influence senior policy-makers in Bonn and East Berlin. More widely, the project will assess how far the claims made by scientists in Pugwash – that their shared scientific language and commitment to social responsibility was a basis for building trust across the blocs – could enable them to function transnationally and make a special contribution to reducing Cold War tensions. Here, it seeks new understandings of the role of Pugwash as a channel of east-west communication, as a forum for "soft diplomacy", and its place within the changing landscape of conflict moderation and disarmament organizations.

Dr Kraft has published widely on the history of science, particularly the life sciences, and the relationship between science, politics, and the state in the nuclear age.  Her current project builds on earlier work on the history of Pugwash in Britain. Together with Carola Sachse (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin), she is currently co-editing a book on the history of Pugwash entitled Science, Peace, Communism. 

She is a research fellow at the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies in 2017/2018.


Berlin Center for Cold War Studies
Brown Bag Breakfast #18 | Projektvorstellung am Berliner Kolleg Kalter Krieg | 11/8/2017 (in German)