OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Peter J. Kuznick

Portrait of Peter J. Kuznick

Peter J. Kuznick is a professor of history and the director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. The author of Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists As Political Activists in 1930s America (1987); a coeditor, with James Gilbert, of Rethinking Cold War Culture (2001); and a coauthor, with Akira Kimura, of Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (published in Japanese in 2010), with Yuki Tanaka, of Nuclear Power and Hiroshima: The Truth behind the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power (published in Japanese in 2011), with Oliver Stone and Satoko Norimatsu, “What is War? What is War Really Like?”: The Collected 2013 Japan Interviews, Talks, and Articles by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, he studies nuclear issues, past and present, and is writing a book about scientists and the Vietnam War. He helped found the Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy in 2003, in response to the Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibit, and the Nuclear Education Project. He is coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States (2012), a 12-part documentary film series and companion book (revised and updated 2019) on the history of the American empire and national security state. He has also written a screenplay on the early Cold War titled "Lost Cause." His most recent book, co-authored with former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Akira Kimura, and Oliver Stone, is The Untold Postwar History of the U.S. and Japan (2020 in Japanese).

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture dissects the scientists' activism and leadership in the Vietnam era anti-war movement.
Dwight Eisenhower is widely viewed as a man of peace who warned about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. This lecture argues that Eisenhower, more than any other individual, was responsible for creating the military-industrial complex. Under his leadership, the U.S. went from having little more than 1,000 atomic bombs to having nearly 30,000 by the time his budgeting cycle was finished, from having one finger on the nuclear "button" to having dozens, and from atomic bombs being our last resort to being our first resort in the event of war.
Former Vice President Henry Wallace has largely been lost to history. Few appreciate how visionary and progressive his views were. This lecture argues that if he had become president in April 1945 instead of Harry Truman, there would have been no atomic bombings against Japan and possibly no cold war or nuclear arms race.
This lecture argues that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were militarily unnecessary and morally reprehensible. In authorizing the use of the atomic bombs against Japan, Harry Truman knowingly and recklessly put humanity on a glide path to annihilation.
This lecture traces the history of the American empire from the 1990 reunification of Germany to the presidency of Donald Trump. It highlights the multiple existential threats confronting the planet today with particular emphasis on the presidency of Donald Trump, which it places in historical context.