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Two Minutes to Midnight: 1953-the Year of Living Dangerously

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Roger Hermiston

Sunday 10th October 15:00 - 15:45 | Digital

Roger Hermiston explains why 1953 was a pivotal year in which the world faced not only immediate serious threats, but also stored up a legacy of problems for future generations. January, 1953. It is eight years on from the most destructive conflict in human history and the Cold War has entered its most deadly phase. An Iron Curtain has descended across Europe, and hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union have turned hot on the Korean peninsula, as the two powers clash in an intractable and bloody proxy war.

Meanwhile, the pace of the nuclear arms race has become frenetic. The Soviet Union has finally tested it own atom bomb, as has Britain. But in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the United States has detonated its first thermonuclear device, dwarfing the destruction unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.

For the first time the Doomsday Clock is set at two minutes to midnight, with the chances of a man-made global apocalypse becoming increasing likely. As the Cold War powers square up in political and military battles around the globe, every city has become a potential battleground and every citizen a target. 1953 is set to be a year of living dangerously.

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