Between 1920 and 1950, British and US internationalists called for aviation and atomic energy to be taken out of the hands of nation-states, and instead used by international organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. An international air force was to enforce collective security and internationalized civil aviation was to bind the world together through trade and communication. The bomber and the atomic bomb, now associated with death and devastation, were to be instruments of world peace. Drawing on material from his recent book, Waqar Zaidi explores conceptualizations of national and international science and technology embedded within these proposals and the discourses surrounding them. Persuasive and widely held assumptions about militaristic perversion and the convertibility of sciences and technologies helped bolster such proposals and ensure their continuity across several decades of tumultuous technological and political change.
Waqar Zaidi is Associate Professor of history at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. His research focuses on the history of the intersections of aviation, atomic energy, and international relations. He was recently a 2020-21 Member at the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and 2021 Verville Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC. His first book, Technological Internationalism and World Order: Aviation, Atomic Energy, and the Search for International Peace was published in 2021. He is currently working on a book on international civil aviation and the politics of the early Cold War.