Richard Feynman on the Atom Bomb

Feynman_200Below please find a link to a clip that might help with your paper due on Monday. It will help give you an idea of the kind of things that people were thinking in the fall of 1945, following the first uses of the atomic weapons in August. The speaker is Richard Feynman (1918-1988), a brilliant nuclear physicist and native of Far Rockaway, Queens, who was still a young graduate student when he was drafted to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project that built the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The whole clip is worth watching, but you MUST watch from about 3:20 to the end, which pertains directly to your final paper. He talks about his realization of the moral implications of the thing that he helped to build. Thanks to your classmate, Yan Levitsky, for bringing this clip to my attention.

Richard Feynman on the Atom Bomb


Revised Schedule for the Final Weeks

Just wanted to rework our schedule for the last few weeks of class to accommodate the missed time on account of the storm. Please note that the college has added Friday, Dec. 14, as an additional class day, which will be a Wednesday schedule. We still have three quizzes left in this semester for Chapters 34, 35, and 36. We will get through Chapters 37 and 38 as well, but will not have a quiz on those since they will be covered in the final. Here are the days for the quizzes, followed by the full revised reading schedule.


  • Wednesday, Nov. 28: Chapter 34
  • Monday, Dec. 3: Chapter 35
  • Monday, Dec. 10: Chapter 36

Here’s the full schedule with readings:

Monday, Nov. 26: The Interwar Period
Traditions: Chapter 34, An Age of Anxiety, pp. 791-802
Shaping: Freud, “On Human Nature,” pp. 294-303
Capitalism: Chapter 6: Crisis? What Crisis?: Read the short section, “The Great Depression in the 1930s,” pp. 108-113

Wednesday, Nov. 28: Totalitarianism and Anti-Colonialism in Asia
Traditions: Chapter 34, An Age of Anxiety, pp. 802-811
Traditions: Chap. 35, Nationalism and Political Identities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, pp. 813-820
Shaping: Mohandas Gandhi, Truth and Civil Disobedience, pp. 365-370

Monday, Dec. 3: Anticolonialism in African and Latin America and the Origins of World War II
Traditions: Chap. 35, Nationalism and Political Identities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, pp. 820-831
QUIZ ON CHAPTER 35 (Middle of class)
Traditions: Chap. 36, New Conflagrations: World War II and the Cold War, pp. 835-840

Wednesday, Dec. 5: World War II and the Holocaust
Traditions: Chap. 36, New Conflagrations: World War II and the Cold War, pp. 840-853
Online: Eyewitness Account of Einsatz Executions (1942)

Monday, Dec. 10: World War II: The Cold War and the End of Empire
Traditions: Chap. 36, New Conflagrations: World War II and the Cold War, pp. 853-861
QUIZ ON CHAPTER 36 (Middle of class)
Shaping: Harry S. Truman, The Truman Doctrine, pp. 388-390

Wednesday, Dec. 12: The End of Empire
Traditions: Chap. 37, The End of Empire, pp. 865-888
Shaping: Patrice Lumumba, From Congo My Country, pp. 378-381
Online: Letter Exchange between President Johnson and Ho Chi Minh

Friday, Dec. 14: Where Are We Now?
Traditions: Chapter 38, A World without Borders, pp. 891-921
Shaping: Amartya Sen, A World Not Neatly Divided, pp. 420-422
Capitalism: Chapter 5, Has Capitalism Gone Global? pp. 82-103

What Do We Mean by “Modern”?

Welcome! I hope you all are enjoying the last few weeks of summer. I wanted to let you know about a few items before we meet on Monday, August 27, at 3:40 pm in Whitehead 517.

1) Please download the course syllabus here and review it before the first class. We will go over it together, but it would be good to look it over beforehand.

2) There are three books required for this class, which will are available at the Brooklyn College bookstore (you can also click on the Bentley and the Fulcher to go to the Amazon page for each; the current edition of Shaping of the Modern World is not available on Amazon):

3) Lastly, you also have a very brief assignment for the first class. (No worries–it doesn’t require any reading!) Using the “Leave a Comment” function below, respond to the following questions:

This course is called “Shaping of the Modern World.” But do we even know the word “modern” means? What does it mean to say that a society or a nation is not modern (i.e. “backward”)? Who or what determines what is and what is not modern? And is there something distinctively “Western” about the idea of “modernity”?

Everyone in the course is required to provide an answer of at least a paragraph. Ideally, you should follow the guidelines for posting on the course website, which you find here, or on pages five and six of the syllabus.