On 8 December 1953, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the creation of an international atomic agency that would promote the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in agriculture, medicine, and power generation, while providing humanity protection from the perils of nuclear weapons proliferation. Six decades after Eisenhower’s historic speech, the IAEA faces serious challenges including the intensification of regional conflicts, the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation to non-state actors, existing shortcomings in nuclear crisis response, and the limits of the Agency’s safeguards and verification system in detecting undeclared nuclear facilities.
Scholarship in the growing field of international nuclear history has produced a remarkable range of new studies on national nuclear programs and histories, yet an empirically based history of the IAEA is still missing. Since 2011, the IAEA History Research Project has acted as an umbrella for different individual research activities on the IAEA, under the auspices of the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. The project aims to establish international research dialog among scholars in the field, and provide insight into a unique international organization. Using historical insights based on multiarchival research and oral history interviews, the project will inform the debate on the IAEA’s past, present, and future role in global governance. The IAEA History Research Project is directed by Dr. Elisabeth Roehrlich.
Understanding the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has great significance for the study of global governance and the history of international organizations. Created at a time of the intense global tensions precipitated by the Cold War, the establishment of the IAEA stands out as a great success in international cooperation. From looking at the creation of the IAEA through this lens, the project provides a substantive addition to literature on the history of the Cold War, international nuclear history, and the history of international organizations. A multiyear grant from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is dedicated to the study of this crucial period in the history of international nuclear order. Find out more about the creation of the IAEA here.
The IAEA History Research Project's Oral History Series comprises interviews with former IAEA senior officials, managers, scientists, and diplomats, including former Director Generals Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. Its mission is to contribute to an enhanced understanding of the IAEA's role, preserve the organization's institutional memory, and to serve as a key resource for policymakers, academics, and the interested public. The project has been made possible by support from the Austrian Central Bank (Jubilaeumsfonds der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank) and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
© Copyright pictures: IAEA Imagebank.