|Abstract: ||This dissertation proposes a revised understanding of the place of science in British literary and political
culture during the early atomic era. It builds on recent scholarship that discards the cultural pessimism and
alleged ‘two-cultures’ dichotomy which underlay earlier histories. Countering influential narratives centred
on a beleaguered radical scientific Left in decline, this account instead recovers an early postwar Britain
whose intellectual milieu was politically heterogeneous and culturally vibrant. It argues for different and
unrecognised currents of science and society that informed the debates of the atomic age, most of which
remain unknown to historians.
Following a contextual overview of British scientific intellectuals active in mid-century, this dissertation
then considers four individuals and episodes in greater detail. The first shows how science and scientific
intellectuals were intimately bound up with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four (1949). Contrary to
interpretations portraying Orwell as hostile to science, Orwell in fact came to side with the views of the
scientific right through his active wartime interest in scientists’ doctrinal disputes; this interest, in turn,
contributed to his depiction of Ingsoc, the novel’s central fictional ideology.
Jacob Bronowski’s remarkable transition from pre-war academic mathematician and Modernist poet to a
leading postwar BBC media don is then traced. A key argument is that rather than publicly engaging with
actual relations of science and the British state, Bronowski actively downplayed the perils of nuclear
weapons, instead promoting an idealist vision of science through his scientific humanism philosophy.
Finally, the political activism of J.G. Crowther and P.M.S. Blackett are analysed, Crowther through his
chairmanship of the Communist-linked British Peace Committee, and Blackett through his controversial
book Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy (1948). In neither case, as might be expected,
did their nuclear politics stem from scientific ideology but rather from personal convictions.|