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IAEA History Research Project

On 8 December 1953, U.S. 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 at the same time protecting humanity from the perils of nuclear use for non-peaceful aims. Six decades after Eisenhower’s historic speech, the IAEA faces serious challenges, among them the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, 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. Against this background, the University of Vienna’s Department of Contemporary History launched an archival research project on the history of the IAEA. 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. The project aims to establish international research dialog among scholars in the field, and provide insight into a unique international organization. 

IAEA Oral History Series

The IAEA History Project’s oral history series, initiated by Dr. Elisabeth Röhrlich, aims to contribute to the historical scholarship on the IAEA. The project seeks to establish a web-based oral history resource comprising of interviews with active and former IAEA senior officials, managers, scientists, and diplomats, alongside information and analysis from key historians in the field. Its goal is to contribute to an enhanced understanding of the IAEA’s role, preserve institutional memory, and serve as a key resource for policymakers, academics, and the interested public. The first version of the digital archive is due to be launched on the occasion of the IAEA’s 60th anniversary. 

Find out more about the IAEA Oral History Series and watch the trailer here.

The Creation of the IAEA, 1953-1957

Understanding the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has great significance for the study of global governance. 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 International Atomic Energy Agency 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.

Find out more about the creation of the IAEA here.

The IAEA History Research Project has received funding, cooperation, and support from:

FWF (Austrian Science Fund), Project Number V-407)
Jubiläumsfonds der Österreichischen Nationalbank
City of Vienna, MA7
The Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies
The Carnegie Corporation of New York
The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP)

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