British civil defence policy in response to the threat of nuclear attack 1972-1986

Arnold, Jacquelyn (2014) British civil defence policy in response to the threat of nuclear attack 1972-1986. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis investigates how successive British governments in the last two decades of the Cold War developed and adapted civil defence policies aimed at mitigating the effects of a nuclear attack on the population of Britain. It tests the hypothesis that civil defence in Britain from 1972 until 1986 was shaped by three distinct influences; economic, ideological and external. It establishes in which ways and to what extent policy was shaped by these factors and which, if any, was the primary determinant of the major policy decisions of the time.

It explains how changing economic, ideological and external contexts fused those policies with the political framework during those 15 years. It examines the theory and reality of civil defence, from its rebirth as a political and practical concern in 1972 until the end of civil defence as a practical and political response against a specific nuclear threat in 1986. It does so within the framework of a wider Cold War defence policy and explains how policy assumptions were constituted and perpetuated. By extrapolating and further analysing the idea of policy development as a direct result of certain key factors, this thesis charts the conceptualisation and evolution of civil defence through its fluctuating humanitarian, political, insurance and deterrent functions by which such policy may be explained and understood.

The thesis concludes that determining one dominant influence from within the intensely symbiotic relationship of ideology, economics and external affairs is problematic. Rather it can be seen that the initiation of civil defence policy was the aspect of the policy cycle most closely influenced by ideology. The later formulation and implementation of that policy was primarily determined by the economic resources available. The ultimate existence of civil defence in its manifestation as protection against nuclear attack was wholly a reaction to the shifting developments of international affairs.

ArnoldJacquelyn - Final PhD thesis.pdf - Published Version

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