Go back to article: Networks of knowledge and power: working collaboratively on the HoNESt project

The Short Country Reports

Although the main purpose of the Short Country Reports was to outline the general relationship between nuclear energy and society between 1945 and 2010, and to provide a foundation for the work of social scientists, this does not mean that it is their only function. Now that the Reports are complete, we are attempting to understand the links, differences and similarities between the experience of all twenty countries; to understand why some nations’ experiences led to a successful and growing nuclear power programme, whilst similar experiences led to programmes which were cancelled, delayed or obstructed. As this work goes on, historians are free to work together (with other historians, and in some cases with social scientists) to engage in new types of analysis about nuclear power and society in Europe (and beyond).

The research undertaken to construct the Short Country Reports stretches to far more than that referenced in the 1,200 pages of Reports available on the project website.[2] Whilst for some countries (such as the US and Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)), an established body of secondary literature could provide the majority of the source-base, for others (such as Spain, Bulgaria, or Greece) primary archival research and oral history interviews undertaken represent the first major forays into those particular national nuclear histories. Not only is a significant proportion of this historical research new, but the research has been undertaken in parallel by a large team of researchers working towards the same goals. This huge collection of knowledge about the way that nuclear power has been experienced and shaped by society, combined with the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across Europe and in the US has provided the opportunity to ask new questions about nuclear power in a transnational perspective.

Working with each other has not only highlighted differences and clashes in our habits of mind, but also surprising concurrences. As the first drafts of the Short Country Reports were completed in September 2016, a large meeting of HoNESt historians and social scientists in Barcelona sought to understand the value of the research conducted. Given the large amount of research to be read, we split into six groups to read six Short Country Reports, and to find similarities and differences between them which surprised us. Once this had been done, each small group reported back their findings to the meeting. Even though some groups were mainly analysing Reports from countries with large nuclear programmes, or Eastern European countries with their own distinct histories, one of the most unexpected things was that those small presentations often covered the same ground. The process of meeting in person, instead of by Skype, and understanding the commonalities in the national research we had all done individually has been vital in identifying links, and unifying themes which underpin the relationships between society and nuclear energy across Europe.

Figure 2

Colour photograph of staff members of the HoNEST project

Historians and social scientists meet in Barcelona to broaden understanding of the work undertaken

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180907/004