On the Popular Geopolitics of Cold War Rocketry

Geopolitics, 13:611–634, 2008
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1465-0045 print / 1557-3028 online
DOI: 10.1080/14650040802275479
FGEO 1465-0045 1557-3028 Geopolitics, Vol. 13, No. 4, September 2008: pp. 1–40 Geopolitics Space and the Atom: On the Popular
Geopolitics of Cold War Rocketry
Space and the Atom Fraser MacDonald FRASER MACDONALD
Geography Programme, Melbourne School of Land and Environment,
University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
This paper considers the imbricated domains of space exploration
and Cold War geopolitics by following the trajectory of the ‘Corporal’, the world’s first guided missile authorised to carry a nuclear
warhead. It examines the popular geopolitics of rocketry as both a
technology of mass destruction and as a vehicle for the transcendent dreams of extra-terrestrial discovery. Avoiding both technical
and statist accounts, the paper shows how these technologies of
Cold War strategic advantage were activated and sustained
through popular media and everyday experience. Particular
attention is given to such mundane activities as children’s play,
citing the example of die-cast miniature toys of the Corporal.
Through such apparently modest means, nuclear weapons were
made intelligible in, and transposable to, a domestic context. The
paper is also situated within a wider emerging literature on geographies and geopolitics of outer space.
This is an essay about, among other things, heavenly visions and hellish
anxieties. It is about the geopolitics of space exploration caught, as it was,
between the pragmatic exigencies of the Cold War and loftier ideals about
transcending our Earthly home. My aim is to contribute to an emerging
interest in extra-terrestrial geographies by examining the place of rocketry
within the cultural, political and geopolitical frames of the era. Until very
recently, geographers in particular have been reluctant to move their ‘graphy’
Address correspondence to Fraser MacDonald, Geography Programme, Melbourne
School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, 221 Bouverie Street, Melbourne,
Victoria 3010, Australia. E-mail: [email protected]
612 Fraser MacDonald
beyond the limits of the ‘geo’. A geography of outer space might sound like
a quixotic enterprise though it is towards this over-ambitious end that the
essay is in part directed. To consider the geopolitics of space inevitably
raises an obvious question about the applicability of a ‘geo’-politics to the
celestial realm. Everett Dolman has already projected classical geopolitics
into space under the guise of ‘astropolitics’ but this is not the model that
I follow here.1
While there is much work to be done forging a critical astropolitics which can examine the contested governance and sovereignty of
space, this paper is only obliquely concerned with astropolitical dominance.
I want instead to think through the parallel geopolitics of space exploration
and Cold War weaponry with reference to some resolutely grounded observations about the place of such technology in everyday civilian life here on
Earth. More specifically, I want to think about how the geopolitics of space
exploration was expressed, and indeed enacted, through ‘play’. If this
seems like an unlikely approach, it is nevertheless insistent about taking
seriously the ludic activities of children and adults as a matter of geopolitical
In what follows, I step back from what is conventionally regarded as
the inception of the Space Age: the dramatic launch of the Russian satellite
Sputnik into a stable orbit on 4 October 1957. There is no question that
Sputnik is the pre-eminent milestone in the history of the space race.2
It is
significant for all sorts of reasons, not least as the first in a technological
lineage that would subsequently bequeath profound consequences for the
nature of social life on Earth, from weather forecasting to telephony to surveillance to navigation to missile guidance and so on. Sputnik will doubtless
remain an iconic marker of Cold War rivalry. But even before a payload
could be placed in orbit, the rival superpowers faced the earlier challenge,
which interests me here, of leaving Earth’s atmosphere in the first place.
My concern then is with the evolving rocket programme of the American military from the end of the Second World War to the early 1960s.
While this study includes a number of different rockets, intended for a variety of strategic, military and research purposes, I concentrate in particular
on the development of the ‘Corporal’ (Figure 1), an overlooked part of a
wider programme which takes in its technical variants (such as the WAC
Corporal) and immediate predecessors (such as the V-2, and the Bumper
WAC). If I use the word ‘rocket’ in this context with some hesitation, it is
because the word most frequently appended to the name Corporal is ‘missile’.3
. The distinction seems a fine one, but in a sense the entire history of
space exploration lies in this slippage between rocket and missile; between
a peace-time research vehicle and a Cold War weapon of mass destruction.
There is nothing, technically speaking, to differentiate rocket from missile.
The terms are often used interchangeably, even if they each carry a different
semiotic payload. Rocket is a fairly benign descriptor that simply refers to a
vehicle which obtains thrust by the ejection of a fast-moving propellant.
Space and the Atom 613
This is the term most obviously associated with exploration. Missile, by contrast, implies impact and annihilation; an intent to destroy. While this different discursive construction of the technology is worth noting, the vehicle
itself is exactly the same: space exploration and perpetual readiness for
nuclear war are simply two parts of one story. The Corporal programme is
therefore the classic embodiment of these seemingly irreconcilable objectives, for it has the acclaim of being the first man-made object to ascend to
outer space as well as being America’s (and Britain’s) first nuclear missile. It
was, as David de Vorkin described the V-2, a tool of science that would prepare the nation for the next war, with both ‘warhead’ and ‘peacehead’
The Corporal missile has curiously escaped any detailed consideration
either by historians of the space age or those of nuclearism.5
To be sure, it
was not the first significant rocket (that notoriety must go to its direct predecessor, the German V-2), nor was it the first nuclear weapon (the free-fall
bomb ‘Little Boy’ whose accomplishment was the mass killing of 140,000
civilians in Hiroshima). The Corporal, being a ‘tactical missile’ with a modest
range of 75 nautical miles, was also of limited strategic significance compared to subsequent Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), like the
FIGURE 1 US Army training with the Corporal missile, 1954. Reproduced courtesy of Army
Ballistic Missile Agency, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
614 Fraser MacDonald
more versatile ‘Atlas’, which could usefully dispatch death to remote peoples as well as place satellites into orbit. While the Corporal was briefly on
the front line of nuclear defence, it was never used in conflict. This is perhaps just as well; in the early years, the Corporal had such a terrible record
of target accuracy that its most likely casualties would have been its own
troop battalions. It was, if anything, a bit of a dud. It was also however the
first man-made object to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.6
And as the first
guided missile authorised to carry a nuclear warhead, it arguably has particular significance as the progenitor of contemporary weapons of mass
destruction. Moreover, at the time of its development it carried, however
fleetingly, a raft of hopes and fears both about the space age and about
nuclear war.
What interests me here is what we might call the ‘cultural success’ of
the Corporal, an object that sat astride the categories of ‘rocket’ and ‘missile’,
drawing on the popular enthusiasm for space to legitimate its underlying
military purpose. In this essay then, I discuss the place of the Corporal
within the popular and political cultures of the era and in so doing I pay
most attention to the ways in which the missile was figured across a diverse
suite of cultural forms. I situate my argument within a wider literature on
‘popular geopolitics’, a recent emphasis within critical geopolitics that
attends to the circulation of geopolitical power through popular culture
rather than through familiar networks of statesmen, generals and ruling
elites. To talk, therefore, of the ‘popular geopolitics’ of rocketry is to examine
how the technologies of Cold War strategic advantage were activated and
sustained through popular media and everyday experience. The essay
argues that the power of the Corporal lay less in its technical ability to propel a 20 kiloton nuclear fission warhead 40 km high than in its presence as
a flexible narrative prop, able to support popular enthusiasms about space
while coyly doubling as a weapon of mass destruction. That the Corporal
was ‘domesticated’ as a die cast children’s toy is, I argue, indicative of how
the widespread enthusiasm for rocketry and space exploration in the 1950s
eased nuclear weapons into the political mainstream.
In the first instance, I open up space and its exploration as a research
theme which could usefully be considered within the orbit of geography.
Drawing on earlier precedents for thinking of space as a sphere of the
social, I emphasise the strategic, scientific and geopolitical continuities
between space exploration and earlier episodes of imperial endeavour. The
history of the Corporal programme is then understood in this light, as a
technology variously configured as vehicle, instrument and projectile, that
emerged from the aftermath of the Second World War to become a key
weapon in NATO’s arsenal. Lastly, I want to think more closely about the
popular geopolitics of the Corporal programme, examining the by no
means untroubled passage of the missile through domestic as well state
Space and the Atom 615
An historical geography of space exploration has yet to be written. And
such a task might only be one part of a broader geographical engagement
with outer space which has, to date, been strangely limited. Strange,
because it is now over fifty years since humans first cast their instruments
into orbit. Our species has lived in space for more or less the last twenty
years, and is currently represented by the crew of the International Space
Station. The journey through the Earth’s atmosphere, once a major obstacle,
is now made on an almost weekly basis. There are over 700 operational
spacecraft in orbit and over 35 nations now have payloads in space. In
short, the last fifty years has seen the outer-Earth become an ordinary and
accessible sphere of human endeavour, our presence in (and reliance on)
space making it one of the enabling conditions for our current mode of
everyday life. It would be easy to draw a rather superficial connection here,
trading on the commodious meaning of the word ‘space’ as both the
primary analytic for contemporary human geography and as the popular
term for the expanse in which solar and stellar systems are located. But
I want, in passing, to make the more ambitious argument that geography is
the obvious disciplinary home for the study of the historical, cultural, political,
economic and strategic contest over the outer-Earth. Such a project is not a
search for the new, but rather a boldly going back to some of geography’s
earlier origins. For if outer space is a scale that for the most part feels
unfamiliar to human geographers, such limited disciplinary horizons are,
paradoxically, a late modern tendency. David Livingstone has shown how, in
figures like the sixteenth-century scholar-mathematician John Dee (1527–1608),
astronomical enquiry and the study of cosmography aimed to connect the
workings of heaven and earth.7
It was the planetary scale which formed the
background to much geographical teaching in the early modern period,
the movements of the stars being afforded significance in the outcome of
worldly affairs. As I have explored elsewhere, there are a number of geographical precedents for thinking about outer space.8
A related argument worth mentioning is that a geography of outer
space is a logical extension of earlier geographies of imperial exploration.9
Space exploration has used exactly the same discourses, the same rationales,
and even the same institutional frameworks (such as the International
Geophysical Year, 1957–1958) as terrestrial exploration. And like its terrestrial
counterpart, the move into space has its origins in older imperial enterprises.
Marina Benjamin argues that for the United States outer space was ‘always a
metaphorical extension of the American West’.10 When Frederick Jackson
Turner argued in 1893 that the frontier was central to American identity and
nationhood, his thesis could equally be applied to the US space programme’s
encounter with the ‘final frontier’ in the twentieth century.11 Peter Redfield
makes a similar point in relation to the French Arianne space programme
616 Fraser MacDonald
which relied on its earlier colonial ties to take advantage of the fuel economies associated with an equatorial launch, rather than sites at higher latitudes.
Looking at the parallel narratives of colonialism and rocketry in French
Guiana, he makes the case that ‘outer space reflects a practical shadow of
The history of the Corporal missile also stands in this shadow. Not only
was the Corporal (configured as sounding rocket) part of a bid to open up
the new empire of space on the part of the United States, but the Corporal
(configured as missile) was also a means of shoring up imperial power back
on Earth. When the British government bought the programme from the
United States in 1954 it was purchased as means of re-asserting Britain’s
geopolitical significance in the context of its own imperial anxieties.13 Possessing a nuclear missile was seen by Winston Churchill as a shortcut back
to the international stage at a time when Britain’s own home-grown missile
programme was in its infancy.14 In this way, did the imperative of space
exploration go hand in hand with terrestrial geostrategic considerations,
both of which were extensions of earlier regimes of imperial power. Even if
the political geography literature has scarcely engaged with outer space, we
can conceive the advent of rocketry as one expression of Cold War (imperial)
geopolitics. All of this is to say, then, that a geography of space and its
exploration, both in terms of its historical development and its contemporary astropolitics, is not some far-fetched or indulgent distraction from the
‘real world’; rather, it is constitutive of numerous familiar operations, from
international relations and the conduct of war, to the basic infrastructural
maintenance of the state and to the lives of its citizenry.15 Space, and how
we got there, matters. And this is true not least because thinking about
space and its exploration presents a series of challenges to the terrestrial
character of geography itself, as well perhaps, as testing some of the basic
tenets of social theory.16 Moreover, the ability to leave the atmosphere has
profoundly refocused attention on the geographical knowledge of Earth
itself; in all sorts of ways, then, attaining orbit has helped remake Earthly
geographies.17 I consider the Corporal programme to be a useful starting
point for considering many of these themes. And yet what is ultimately most
interesting for our purposes here is to think about how this early unmanned
space exploration engaged the popular imagination in ways that legitimated
and sustained particular geopolitical logics here on Earth.
The story of CORPORAL’s birth, growth and development into a fullfledged guided missile system is one of trial and error, a pattern of devoted
human endeavour studded with many failures and fewer heartening
Space and the Atom 617
successes, acknowledging each failure and profiting from it, and striving
towards the goal of providing the Army Field Forces with an efficient
deterrent to aggression. The story is one of improvisations, of making do
with what was available in materials and components, of feeling the
way as explorers into the unknown, uncharted realm of rocketry.18
In recounting the history of the Corporal, one must first deal with its name.
Why ‘Corporal’? It was a question of rank. In 1944, the US Army had commissioned a new missile programme from a rocketry team at what became
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology.19 Their first attempt was a primitive test vehicle called ‘Private’, a simple unguided ballistic missile which was launched in December 1944. As
JPL engineer William H. Pickering recalled in an interview, ‘When we
started out, we said first of all we’d do Private, then we’d do the Corporal,
and then we’d do Sergeant, and maybe get up to the General’. Laughing at
this point, he added: ‘We had the WAC Corporal too – Women’s Army
Corps . . . it was a little one [more laughter]’.20 This was a regular little gag
among rocket scientists. More accurately, WAC stood for ‘Without Attitude
Control’, a reference to the fact that this simple prototype of a researchbased sounding rocket had no stabilisation and guidance system.21 But
‘Women’s Army Corps’ fitted rather well with the unmistakably gendered
assumptions about the (low ranking) place of women in the military and,
indeed, about the perceived ‘modesty’ of this particular rocket. In due
course, it was succeeded by the apparently more mature ‘Corporal’ proper
and eventually by the ‘Sergeant’, both of which were authorised to carry
nuclear warheads. But for all these deprecating remarks, the WAC Corporal
was a crucial interim stage in the history of rocketry, for many years holding
the record, when combined with the V-2, for the highest altitude ever
attained by human technology. This combined ‘BUMPER WAC Corporal’ –
so called because the V-2 would give a ‘bump’ to the WAC Corporal allowing
it to start its journey from a high-altitude platform – was the world’s first
two-stage liquid propellant rocket, and became after several attempts in
1948 and 1949, the first man-made object to reach space.
This ‘mating’ with the V-2 was essential in establishing rocket ‘staging’
as a viable means of high altitude ascent. But to see the home-grown Corporal atop the V-2 provides an appropriate metaphor for the subsequent
development of the US space programme: American strategic initiatives
given a ‘bump’ by German engineering. For it was German rocket engineers, led by the inimitable Werner von Braun, who developed the V-2
(‘Vergeltungswaffe 2’ or ‘Reprisal Weapon 2’, as Joseph Goebbel’s called it).
As the world’s first ballistic missile, it rained terror on London and Antwerp in
the last desperate phase of the Second World War. Although 2700 civilians
were killed and thousands more were injured, it was the morale-sapping psychological effects of the V-2 that stand out. Unlike other weapons, its arrival
618 Fraser MacDonald
went unheralded by engine noise or sirens. It accomplished terror by travelling in complete silence and at supersonic speed. There was no warning,
just instant destruction. Nor was there any defence against V-2 attack.
Unsurprisingly, when the end of the war came, rival military commanders
were desperate to get hold of the weapon leading to a scramble among the
Allies for access to V-2 equipment and personnel. Only then did the full
scale of the V-2 production and its reliance upon slavery become clear: a
concentration camp at Mittelbau-Dora had been established – effectively an
extension of the infamous Buchenwald – in order to provide labour for the
construction of the V-2.22 In the eighteen months of production, an estimated
20,000 people died: mass destruction was therefore the ancillary outcome of
rocketry even from its inception, quite aside from its intended military
The American success in acquiring the V-2 was principally achieved
through the auspices of Operation Paperclip,24 an audacious programme
which, under the leadership of Col. Holger N. Toftoy, brought over
100 German scientists and engineers over to the US, many of whom were
put to work initially at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico and
then at the Redstone Arsenal at Hunstville, Alabama. Foremost among these
was von Braun who eventually recruited his old mentor on the V-2, Hermann
Oberth, whose book By Rocket to Planetary Space, published in 1923, is
regarded as one of the founding documents of the Space Age (see Figure 2).
In acquiring von Braun, the Americans had not just captured an uncommon
technical expertise and his undoubted skills as an engineering manager;
unbeknownst to them, they had also enlisted the greatest popular advocate
for space exploration as well as a doughty champion of maintaining nuclear
weapons in space. Von Braun as celebrity boffin went on to bring both the
promise and the reality of space exploration into every household in America
via his regular TV shows, popular magazine articles and a close partnership
with Walt Disney. While he was not the only ‘Paperclip’ émigré to popularise Cold War hardware – Heinz Haber was also influential in this respect,
starring in Walt Disney’s nuclear propagandist cartoon Our Friend the Atom –
von Braun was unusual in combining high profile advocacy with hands-on
Von Braun’s V-2 was a gift to the nascent American space programme.
Although not an especially versatile weapon of war, the enormous German
investment necessary to develop the science of viable propulsion suddenly
became available for a new era of space technology. In the vapour trails of
Operation Paperclip, the WAC Corporal was quickly overtaken by the success
of the V-2 for high altitude flights. With over one hundred V-2s available for
research purposes,25 it soon established itself as indispensable for the study
of near-Earth space phenomena. In one sense, it was the perfect research
vehicle as the weight lost by the removal of the German warhead could be
usefully replaced with scientific instrumentation, or, as happened in 1946,
Space and the Atom 619
with camera equipment. And on 24 October 1946, launch number 13 produced the first pictures of the Earth from space. Writing in the National
Geographic, the camera’s engineer, Clyde Holliday, claimed that these were
the first pictures to show the curvature of the Earth ‘from the border of
FIGURE 2 Officials of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency with model US rockets, Alabama,
1956. Pictured from left to right, Ernst Stuhlinger, Major General Holger Toftoy, Hermann
Oberth, Wernher von Braun, and Robert Lusser. The Corporal missile is the second model
from the right; the V-2 is closest to the camera. Image reproduced courtesy of NASA.
620 Fraser MacDonald
outer space’, with ‘single views cover[ing] 100,000 square miles’.26 Holliday
identifies the profound implications of this episode:
Results are now pointing to a time when cameras may be mounted on
guided missiles for scouting enemy territory in war, mapping inaccessible regions of the earth in peacetime, and even photographing
cloud formations, storm fronts, and overcast areas over an entire
continent in a few hours, which would be of great benefit to weather
It could, he thought, even ‘detect troop movements’: ‘camouflage would
hide little from such an all seeing eye’.28 Reaching the heights of the
upper atmosphere with his camera allowed Holliday to anticipate the
new horizons that would ultimately be opened up by satellite technology.
Two and a half years after Holliday’s film, on 24 February 1949, the
BUMPER WAC broke all records attaining a speed of 5,150 miles per hour
and an altitude of about 244 miles (see Figure 3). The excitement of this
event was not confined to von Braun, its principal engineer. Footage
from these BUMPER flights inevitably generated a modest degree of public interest. To see the Earth receding at high speed gave an altogether
more tangible sense of the possibility of space travel. In 1956, Michael
Todd’s film version of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days
opened with a Corporal being launched at the White Sands Missile range,
followed by footage from the rocket. It was an early taste of rocketry’s
accelerated sublime.
Rocketry, however, was not straightforwardly about space exploration.
The refinement of guidance systems – initially through the Corporal ‘E’ test
vehicle – had very obvious applications for warfare. John E. Dahlquist,
Commanding General of the US Army in the 1950s, argued that ‘guided missiles, especially when atomic armed, represent the most radical change in
weapons systems since the invention of gunpowder’.29 They were, he said,
‘bullets with brains’. The Corporal was the first vehicle to warrant this
description, being the first missile authorised to carry an atomic warhead.
The Corporal in effect became the earliest nuclear missile, shifting from an
experimental vehicle to a practical field weapon. The context for this transition was a wider set of geopolitical maneuvers that had seen America’s
troop commitment scaled down from their expensive wartime heights while
at the same time anticipating a new era of Cold War conflicts. The first successful Soviet nuclear test in 1949 prompted the Army Ordinance to ask the
JPL to ‘weaponise’ their WAC Corporal research rocket as a tactical surfaceto-surface guided missile.30 The outbreak of the Korean War gave further
impetus to the production process, though they would not be combat ready
in time for deployment there. By the mid 1950s, President Eisenhower’s
‘New Look’ policy had replaced conventional defence doctrine with an
Space and the Atom 621
approach that simultaneously promised ‘massive nuclear retaliation’
while making peace with the Soviet Union and protecting America’s
economy. For the US, like the UK, a compromise had to be found
between a policy of massive nuclear retaliation and the doctrine of a
‘flexible response’, which might include the deployment of conventional
forces as well as small-scale ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. The changing
security environment in Eastern Europe meant that the American policy,
and that of NATO more broadly, was geared to the possibility of fighting
a ‘limited’ nuclear war using lower yield tactical weapons such as the
Corporal. To the extent that the Corporal had escaped widespread public acclaim in relation to the Bumper WAC high altitude flights, it had, by
the late 1950s, acquired an entirely new public profile as the front line of
missile defence.
Although reconfigured as a field weapon, the Corporal always retained
the cumbersome handling of a research vehicle, rather than the versatility
required by the Army at war. A single test firing required a battalion of 250 men
FIGURE 3 The Bumper WAC becomes the first man-made object to penetrate outer space,
launched from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico on the 24th February 1949.
Image reproduced courtesy of NASA.
622 Fraser MacDonald
equipped with 35 vehicles working 7–9 hours to complete preparation for
launch in a process that involved handling liquid fuel and an extremely hazardous oxidant, red fuming nitrous oxide (RFNA). Until 1955, its in-flight
reliability and accuracy was less than 50 percent, with only modest
improvements in this record thereafter.31 So the power of the missile lay less
in its potential for destruction (though this was still considerable – the warhead was significantly more powerful than that dropped on Hiroshima) but
rather in its status as a monument: as a symbol of power to be seen alike by
American citizen and rival sovereign states. The Corporal had a monumental
presence in a whole range of public contexts, from a life-size model for use
as an Army recruiting prop32 to being pictured, as we shall see, in collectors
cards in breakfast cereals. The US Army even used a couple of unarmed
Corporals to augment the red carpet at the Munich premiere of Wernher
von Braun’s pompous biopic flop I Aim At the Stars (which the Jewish
comedian Mort Sahl acerbically subtitled But Sometimes I Hit London).33 It is
in this context, then, that it seems appropriate to examine the popular geopolitics of the Corporal.
Geopolitics is not what it used to be; it is not, at least, conceived as it used
to be. The critical geopolitics agenda, so formatively inaugurated by Simon
Dalby and Gearóid Ó Tuathail in the 1990s,34 has since broadened the terms
of its inquiry, responding to criticism that it had reproduced the narrow
focus of classical geopolitics on the state and its governing intellectual and
political elites of ministers, generals and tacticians.35 New work on popular
geopolitics has sought to redress this balance by looking at how geopolitical
power is circulated in and through popular culture, ‘ordinary experience’
and everyday life.36 A few researchers are taking up Nigel Thrift’s injunction
to attend to how ‘the little things’ – like the object world, the human body
and even words as ordinary as the definite article – matter in the operation
of statecraft.37 This sort of approach is particularly instructive for thinking
about Cold War militarism and space exploration, for in both cases these
were sustained by popular movements and enacted through such mundane
activities like child’s play. Moreover, it is also a useful corrective not only to
the state-dominated field of geopolitics but also to the no less state-dominated
histories of nuclearism.38 Much attention has already been directed at the
impact of nuclearism on popular literary cultures.39 John Canaday, for
instance, has persuasively argued that ‘nuclear weapons have exercised
their power in the purely literary form of their fictional use in the future’.40
But it is worth reiterating an important distinction here, that this is not
merely a matter of representing the geopolitical power of nuclear weapons
through fiction, but that this is the power of nuclear weapons: we are dealing
Space and the Atom 623
with the effect (rather than the referent) of representation.41 A similar point
might be made in relation to space exploration which has its earliest origins
in literary flights of fancy. Popular culture cannot be understood as
‘responding’ to space exploration as much as being constitutive of it.42
All of this supports my argument that popular geopolitics is a suitable
perspective from which to think about Cold War rocketry. At the same time,
however, I want to avoid some of the more obvious cultural arenas – television,
film and literature – in which rocketry has been popularly figured. The Corporal has featured as a narrative prop in all manner of screen and literary
contexts, perhaps most famously in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, in which the
villain’s plan to contaminate the gold reserves of Fort Knox with a stolen
Corporal warhead is foiled by the deft (though decidedly straight) maneuvers
of 007 and Pussy Galore.43 But I am a little wary that much of the popular
geopolitics literature has settled on film44 which, while resolutely popular, is
hardly in the spirit of the ‘little thing’ (quite aside, of course, from the
embeddedness of Hollywood within wider state-corporate-military networks).
Instead, I want to concentrate on more ephemeral cultural presences of the
Corporal, in order to think about how the geopolitics of militarism and
space exploration were enacted in everyday contexts. And in a further
departure from the mainstream of popular geopolitics I want to foreground,
as far as I am able, the role of mundane social practices working in and
through artefacts and representations. I am interested in the geopolitics of
two practices in particular, play and collecting, which are in turn examined
through the representational forms of toys and cards.
Rocketry as Child’s Play
It has never been clear to me why the perennially stupid question what do
you want to be when you grow up? often anticipates an answer like ‘astronaut’. Arguably, the astronaut is the postwar version of the polar explorer,
embodying certain qualities and virtues that adults would like to instill in
their children. And yet for children too, space and its exploration have been
fertile imaginative resources, even before the advent of rocketry. This last
point is important. Play is the precursor to space exploration: it would be
impossible to separate the serious business of rocketry from various forms
of tinkering and toying with the (im)practicalities of propulsion. Hermann
Oberth, one of the founders of rocket science, pictured in Figure 1, was
known to have developed his expertise out of childhood play having been
fascinated with Jules Verne from the age of eleven. The same also applies to
war games; playing at or with war is a constituent part of warfare itself.45 So
it should not be surprising that a technology like rocketry – doubling as
vehicle of space exploration and weapon of mass destruction – would be
such a prominent narrative prop in children’s play in the 1950s. While there
were doubtless many instances of rocketry featuring in play without any
624 Fraser MacDonald
bespoke toy to facilitate the imagination, I want to think here about some
specific forms of toy missile and the games they might have evoked. It is
striking that there were very deliberate attempts to reproduce missile technology for the playroom and thus to translate the hardware of nuclear
destruction and its wider geopolitical narrative into a domestic setting. My
approach, then, is to take seriously the ludic activities of children, and
indeed adults, as a suitable subject for geopolitical enquiry. While this
project follows some recent attempts to re-think the status of children in political geography,46 it is less aligned with the ‘children’s geographies’ literature47
than with a distinct concern with play and its cultural significance.48
In a recent paper, Nigel Thrift has examined the rise of the ‘supertoy’, a
term borrowed from a short story by Brian Aldiss, by which he refers to a
new generation of plaything, such as the Tamagotchi, that, as an assemblage of hardware and software, can ‘intelligently’ interact with its environment and users.49 Thrift is interested in the toy as a form whose character is
changing in ways that might reconfigure the sociality of its users. When
talking about ‘supertoys’, it seems unlikely however that Thrift could have
been aware of Dinky’s series of 1950s die-cast models with exactly the same
name. But his claim that ‘the course of interactivity has nearly always been
prefigured by the history of toys’, seems to me an important one which
would bear consideration in relation to the Dinky Supertoy.50 The idea of
‘interactivity’ in my example is rather different from Thrift’s, but there are
some interesting points of connection nonetheless.
The Dinky Supertoy no. 666 – a Missile erector vehicle with Corporal
missile and launching platform – was first advertised on the back page of
Meccano Magazine in November 1959 (Figure 4). Inside the magazine, in
an article called ‘Dinky Toy News’ by ‘The Toyman’, the reader is told that
‘this fine new item is going to be one of the most sought for [sic] and popular of all the many fine Dinky Supertoys already available’.51 It was,
explained The Toyman, ‘an accurately modeled miniature of Britain’s
famous guided weapon’ and ‘a working model that has lots of play value,
for the rocket itself can be loaded on to its launching platform and fired in a
realistic manner’. ‘Britain’s famous guided weapon’ was a truth of sorts. Britain had bought the Corporal programme from the US in 1954, and after
building a firing range on the islands of South Uist and Benbecula in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, it had tested the first of their 113 missiles in June
1959.52 The launch of the toy missile therefore coincided, as the advert itself
implies, with the public interest in the Hebridean debut of the Corporal. It
was, in other words, a momento of a notable event in household and nation
alike. While there is no evidence that the British Army authorised this specific model, in subsequent instances – Corgi’s ‘Corporal’ model, for instance
– the Army allowed the toy company’s draughtsmen access to the real thing
for the sake of accuracy.53 In this way, then, the toys are licensed correlates
that encourage an interest in and support for the original hardware in its
Space and the Atom 625
FIGURE 4 Advert for Dinky Supertoy no. 666, Missile erector vehicle with Corporal missile
and launching platform, as it appeared in Meccano Magazine, November 1959.
626 Fraser MacDonald
strategic context. The awkwardness of this being an American missile is
glossed over, the advert proudly claiming that the toy is ‘Made in England’.
The advert goes on to emphasise agency and control: this is ‘the Corporal missile . . . a rocket you can launch’; ‘a realistic model that actually
WORKS; ‘it’s new, it fires’. The toy could be finely manipulated by its child
operative, even to the extent of gearing that enabled ‘the boom to pick up
the missile and swing it to the horizontal traveling position’. In this way, the
work of 250 men, 35 vehicles and 9 hours could be accomplished by a child
in a few seconds. It is the event of launch in miniature form. The launch
event is integral to the toy; it is part, but by no means all, of its purpose. It
achieves a particular experience of time and space, a series of anticipatory
preparations followed by a countdown and the moment of launch in which
the exact timing and target are established by the player through the symbolic manipulation of the object. The launch works as play in part because
it successfully addresses what child psychiatrists John and Elizabeth Newson
have called its ‘happening-hunger’.54 As Dan Fleming notes
children need things to happen and are impatient with the adult temper
which, from time to time, simply wants things to stop happening. Many
things can count as happenings, and in fact playing becomes a way of
generating happenings when none are forthcoming from other sources.55
Children thus become geopolitical agents through their mastery of the missile
event. And, characteristically, it must be repeated over and over again. Walter
Benjamin recognised that ‘repetition is the soul of play, that nothing gives . .
. [the child] greater pleasure than to ‘Do it again!’”56 For Benjamin, it is a way
of overcoming frightening fundamental experiences. But what exactly is
being repeated? Is this a rocket or a missile, a weapon or a vehicle? Is this
about war or peace, space exploration or the Cold War defence of capitalism?
Or something else altogether? It is all of these things, of course; the toy is
propelled by the ambiguity. Toy theorists like Brian Sutton-Smith have
constantly emphasised that toys do not come with overdetermined meanings:
they do not dictate play but rather ‘the plans of the playful imagination
dominate . . . the toys, not the other way round’.57 However, as Dan Fleming
argues, this endless liminality of the toy is perhaps ‘more in the eye of the
critic-analyst than in the reality and materiality of a culture which appears
rather more ruthless than this at deciding how things are’.58
When first introduced, both the Dinky missile and its Corgi rival were
relatively open to being either weapon or space vehicle. The Corgi model in
particular was marketed as part of its ‘Rocket Age’ series. But by 1961, it had
tilted the meaning of the Corporal by introducing a ‘percussion warhead’
(model no. 1480) to be bought separately and ‘easily and quickly fitted to
your missile . . . loaded with standard caps to give a really authentic explosion on impact’. The centrality of the launch had thus shifted to that of
Space and the Atom 627
impact. This change in emphasis raises the question of the extent to which
the geographies of Cold War missile pointing were part of the cultural
meaning that the toy embodied.59 Between launch and impact, there is, of
course, a vector of direction. But there is little to suggest a specific eastward
orientation to these lines of flight, though one might argue that this is
assumed by the Cold War context. It is safer only to suggest that the missile
is pointed ‘away’ from ‘us’.
In Dinky’s advert, details of the toy (with ‘a harmless soft hollow rubber nose cone to ensure safety’) are placed alongside details of the ‘real’
missile, though the advert is shy of noting its nuclear capability. In other
respects, absolute fidelity to the original is important. As a scale model,
the detail included in the miniature was considered to be essential. It was,
after all, a competitive marketplace. The early Dinky versions of the 666
vehicle had neither windows nor driver, but both had to be introduced to
respond to the rival Corgi’s toy, advertised with the slogan ‘Corgi – the
one with windows’.60 This sluggish attention to detail across Dinky’s range
was fatal for its market share and by the time the Corporal was withdrawn, it was in serious financial difficulties. But what does this level of
detail mean? Fleming refers to the toy’s degree of representational accuracy and realism as its ‘modality’ which runs alongside (sometimes in
competition with) its mechanical activity.61 The basic ‘toyness’ of the Corporal is achieved through miniaturisation, which in turn allows the operative a sense of control and superiority. But detail must still be preserved; it
must be ‘real enough’, not least because the toymaker must satisfy some
degree of technical knowledge on the part of the player. Toys like this
both assume and impart serious technical competence, not only in terms
of fine motor skills but also as an analogue of ‘real’ military field knowledge. Indeed, the full slippage between the worlds of play and of war are
nowhere more apparent than elsewhere in the same issue of Meccano
Magazine where other adverts by the Army and the Royal Navy encourage boys of 14 to leave school and join up as a trade apprentice. The
child-consumer that one day purchases a toy might the next day decide to
enlist. There is no doubt other than that these toys assume the metacontext of the Cold War. In Thrift’s description of the highly ‘mediatized’
contemporary supertoy, he notes that ‘from My Little Pony to Barbie, the
worlds on offer are a series of micro-ontologies which children can link
into’.62 But in the case of the 1950s Supertoy, the context was quite different: while the child might use the missile as part of a wider set of military
toys, it was still within the narrative parameters of Cold War conflict. All of
this might seem to be a long way from space exploration but what I am
arguing here is that this ‘doubling’ of the Corporal in ‘real life’, as weapon
and as exploration vehicle, is opened up through play; and moreover,
such a mundane practice actually helps sustain these dual geopolitical logics of rocketry in the first place.
628 Fraser MacDonald
Stockpiling and Assembling
I mentioned that the Corporal could be one part of a wider military toy
set. Corgi toys marketed its ‘Rocket Age Sensations’ en masse, encouraging the consumer to build up a complete set of the equipment necessary
for launching a missile. This included everything from the Erector Vehicle
(no. 1113), the International Army Truck (no. 1118), the R.A.F. Vanguard
Staff Car (no. 352), the Decca Airfield Radar 424 Scanner (no. 353), the
Decca Airfield Radar Van (no. 1106) and the R.A.F. Land Rover (no. 351).
The missile was thus part of wider repertoire of toys that would support
the military endeavour of launch. At the same time however, the child collector might want to augment the Corporal with other model missiles produced by Corgi, such as the RAF’s ‘Bloodhound’ – a home-grown British
surface-to-air missile in service throughout the Cold War. The Corporal is
thus not necessarily a stand alone object but rather it works as part of a
collection, either of other ancillary equipment or of other comparable
weapons. In this latter case, there is an echo of the strategic state-military
practice of stockpiling: the act of creating assemblages of weapons to be
seen and thus to be entered into the calculus of geopolitical negotiation. A
parallel collection can be seen in the US National Biscuit Company
(Nabisco) drive to circulate trading cards published in 1959 in a series of
24 entitled ‘Defenders of America’, one of which featured the Corporal
missile and another which featured the ‘FIRST FAMILY of the Nation’s big
Missiles’ (Corporal, Honest John and Nike-Ajax). On the reverse side, it
explained how ‘each of these cards is a full detailed reproduction of an
official United States Army, Navy and Air Force or Marine photograph’. It
went on to encourage the child-consumer to ‘get the entire set by eating
Nabisco Shredded Wheat regularly and trading with your friends’. Similar
rewards were to be obtained from other forms of breakfast. Cheerios
offered small collectible ‘US Army Guided Missiles each with its own
launcher’, with brightly coloured versions of Redstone, Nike, Corporal and
Honest John missiles. A quick trawl through eBay will illustrate a ready
market in such artefacts; if the scholarly interest in the Corporal has been
somewhat slow to take off, a popular enthusiasm among collectors is
apparent in the high prices that such toys fetch at auction.63 Indeed, it is
largely through these networks that I have become aware of these domestic Corporals in the first place. Such toys – even ephemeral ones – are significant; they are by no means innocent signifiers of the space race. A
Bowman trading card series called ‘Power for Peace’ also featured the
Corporal under the title ‘the Corporal stands tough’, going on to detail
how it could be ‘equipped with an atomic or conventional type warhead’.
Brian Sutton-Smith talks about collections as ‘mixtures of imagination and
mastery’.64 In this case they serve to make stockpiles of military hardware
intelligible in, and transposable to, a domestic context.
Space and the Atom 629
Most of these versions of the Corporal – in die-cast miniature or on
trading card – came already complete for use by the child. But in certain
instances, the child was cast as rocket engineer and was entered into the
labour of building the Corporal in the first place. A variety of mostly American
toy manufacturers including Revell, Hawk and Monogram also produced
Corporal missiles, pre-assembled in a series of detachable moving plastic
parts complete with appropriate stickers from which to build a precise scale
model. In this case, the event of play was less concerned with launch or
impact than with construction. But this too is an act of participation in a
much wider sphere. Ruth Oldenziel has shown how model construction in
mid-twentieth-century America was a serious means of developing the technical skill, stamina, patience and initiative of adolescent boys.65 In one
sense, to describe this as ‘play’ is to risk trivialising an important if informal
apprenticeship in the development of space technology. But this is surely a
further reminder about the extent to which play and work, toybox and silo,
are co-constitutive. It is through such unremarkable means that the space
race and the Cold War were enacted.
Space and the atom are the two most exciting promises of modern science. Under the pressures of a world at war, the Atomic Age had an
unfortunate start. As yet, fear casts a dark shadow that obscures the
untold benefits that the atom has in store for us. Space flight, fortunately, will be different. It begins under the auspices of a noble international effort to be carried out in a spirit of peaceful cooperation among
scientists of all civilized nations.66
Heinz Haber
Aside from notable advances in molecular biology, the 1950s saw two
unprecedented scientific investigations into the fabric of Earth and Outer
Earth alike. The development of space technologies like the BUMPER WAC
Corporal and subsequent sounding rockets provided a much more detailed
picture of Earth’s atmosphere, as well as producing iconic images of the
Earth from space. At the same time, however, exploration turned in on itself
– an involution – to examine sub-atomic ‘spaces’ which, through nuclear
testing, produced its own peculiar geographies in laboratory and field, and
across subterranean and terrestrial realms.67 These developments are linked
by a common geopolitical rationale that aimed to cultivate weapons of mass
destruction and the means by which they could be urgently delivered to the
other side of the globe. In this way, both the Space Age and the Atomic Age
are folded into the geopolitical strategies of the Cold War, the ascent into
630 Fraser MacDonald
space being, in one sense, merely charismatic evidence of a more sinister
capability. And yet the inseparable character of the nuclearism and rocketry
was sometimes obsessively denied by the champions of space. ‘Space flight,
fortunately, will be different,’ wrote Heinz Haber in 1956, as it ‘begins under
the auspices of a noble international effort to be carried out in a spirit of
peaceful cooperation’. But the ultimate extent of international co-operation
manifest in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty conception of space as res communis (‘a thing for all’) rather than res nullius (‘a thing for no-one’), was
always more of a Cold War fudge designed to check the territorial and astropolitical ambitions of the superpower adversary. Despite the ongoing
presence of the International Space Station (at $100 billion, the most expensive piece of technology ever built), space exploration has proved to be little
different from the technologies of the atom: it remains a matter of competition rather than cooperation, and of weaponisation as much as civilian infrastructure.68 And the current push towards dual use (civilian and military)
space hardware69 is itself indicative of the abiding indistinction between
vehicle and weapon that was apparent fifty years ago with the launch of the
Corporal. The story of the Corporal can thus be seen as an early intimation
of the fact that space exploration would primarily be a matter of projecting
terrestrial geopolitical power. The aim of this essay, at least in part, has
been to bring the history of rocketry down to Earth.
Seen in the light of terrestrial geopolitics, the development of Cold War
rocketry and the wider endeavour of space exploration become more obviously linked. In the annals of exploration, this is plainly not a new story:
earlier precedents of exploring the sea and polar ice would likely offer
some interesting parallels with the account I have described here.70 So it is
worth emphasising that the exploration and colonisation of space does not
represent a radical departure from the past but should be considered as an
extension of long-standing regimes of power. As Peter Redfield succinctly
observed, to move into space is ‘a form of return’: it represents ‘a passage
forward through the very pasts we might think we are leaving behind’.71
Some recent work on the historical geographies of extra-terrestrial spaces,
for instance, has persuasively shown how longstanding geographical practices of naming, mapping and topographical description were instrumental
in the construction of planetary bodies such as Mars.72 All of this supports
the idea that space has long been part and parcel of Earth’s geography;73
and that this Earthly-celestial tradition should itself be an inducement for
geographers to think more closely about ‘the space of space’ in its many
cultural, historical and (geo)political expressions.
In this essay, I have unapologetically concentrated on the popular
place of rocketry within the Cold War, rather than any technical or strategic
account. I have done so because it seems to me that this is where the
rocket/missile derives much of its geopolitical power. The version of
the popular in operation here is of course quite different from much of the
Space and the Atom 631
work on popular culture. Rather than reproduce the well-worn critique of,
say, Hollywood film, I have chosen to focus on more mundane activities
such as play and on such seemingly unlikely geopolitical agents as children.
It is through these means, I have argued, that space exploration and the
Cold War are enacted and made meaningful in domestic contexts. That is to
say, through the ordinary rehearsal of defending ‘us’ (Western, free, capitalist)
from ‘them’, using technologies that also offer a transcendent future, the
child-consumer-player is inducted into a wider geopolitical frame. Not only
do toys and play have extraordinary propagandist value, but more importantly, they also bring about an informal apprenticeship in domains that slip
very readily into ‘real world’ technics and activities. Moreover, the play of
rocketry naturalises the anxieties of the Cold War and arguably helps make
sense of otherwise difficult concepts of loss (leaving our Earthly home) and
death (via nuclear destruction). Most importantly of all, such toys bestow in
their child operative a proprietary sense of the future: that the realm of
space and the technical development of its exploration is something that
belongs to them in their impending adult lives.
1. E. Dolman, ‘Geostrategy in the Space Age: An Astropolitical Analysis’, in C. Gray and G. Sloan
(eds.), Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy (London: Frank Cass 1999) pp. 83–105; E. Dolman, Astropolitik:
Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age (London: Frank Cass 2002).
2. M. Bille and E. Lishock, The First Space Race: Launching the World’s First Satellite, (College
Station: Texas A&M University Press 2004); Asif Siddiqi, Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge (Gainesville:
University Press of Florida 2003).
3. Following most of the military usage, I will refer to the ‘Corporal missile’ from now on.
4. D. DeVorkin, Science with a Vengeance: How the American Military Created the Space Sciences
in the V-2 Era (New York: Springer 1992) p. 154.
5. It does not merit a single mention in the Walter McDougall’s otherwise authoritative work:
W. McDougall, The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
1985); or in Gerard deGroot’s The Bomb: A Life (London: Jonathan Cape 2004) nor in Dale Carter’s The
Final Frontier: The Rise and Fall of the American Rocket State (New York: Verso 1988).
6. Strictly speaking, it was the WAC Corporal in combination with a V-2 that held this distinction.
7. D. Livingstone, The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise
(Oxford: Blackwell 1992) p. 77.
8. F. MacDonald, ‘Anti-Astropolitik: Outer Space and the Orbit of Geography’, Progress in
Human Geography 31.5 (2007) pp. 592–615.
9. F. Driver, Geography Militant: Cultures of Exploration and Empire (Oxford: Blackwell 2000);
N. Smith and A. Godlewska, Geography and Empire: Critical Studies in the History of Geography
(Oxford: Blackwell 1994).
10. M. Benjamin, Rocket Dreams: How the Space Age Shaped our Vision of a World Beyond (London:
Free Press 2003) p. 46.
11. F. J. Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1920); I am grateful to Innes Keighran for this observation.
12. P. Redfield, ‘The Half-Life of Empire in Outer Space’, Social Studies of Science 32.5–6 (2002)
pp. 791–825, p. 795; see also P. Redfield, Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French
Guinana (Berkeley: The University of California Press 2000).
13. F. MacDonald, ‘Geopolitics and the Vision Thing: Regarding Britain and America’s First
Nuclear Missile’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 31.1 (2006) pp. 53–71.
632 Fraser MacDonald
14. I. Clark, Nuclear Diplomacy and the Special Relationship: Britain’s Deterrent and America,
1957–1962 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994).
15. MacDonald, ‘Anti-Astropolitik’ (note 8).
16. Redfield, ‘The Half-Life’ (note 12) p. 792 and Space in the Tropics (note 12).
17. The converse is also true; the development of Earthly geographies was necessary for missile
development, the geodetic measurement of the Earth being required for missile accuracy. See D. J. Warner.
‘Political Geodesy: The Army, the Air Force and the World Geodetic System of 1960’, Annals of Science
59 (2002) pp. 363–389.
18. J. W. Bragg, Development of the Corporal: The Embryo of the Army Missile Programme, Historical
Monograph no. 4 (Redstone: Army Ballistic Missile Agency 1961) p. ix.
19. Formerly called the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratories, California Institute of Technology
20. Interview of William H Pickering II, former director of JPL, by Shirley K Cohen, Caltech
Archives Oral Histories, available at <http://oralhistories.library.caltech.edu/86/>, accessed 26 March
21. In engineering terms, the ‘attitude’ of a body is its orientation as perceived in a certain frame
of reference.
22. M. J. Neufeld, ‘Wernher von Braun, the SS, and Concentration Camp Labour: Questions of
Moral, Political and Criminal Responsibility’, German Studies Review 25.1 (2002) pp. 57–78.
23. M. J. Neufeld, Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War (New York: Knopf 2007) p. 157.
24. Previously named Operation Overcast and renamed Operation Paperclip in March 1946.
25. None were delivered from Germany in flyable condition; General Electric won the contract to
re-build and upgrade the V-2s.
26. This claim was contested. Earlier high altitude balloons had reached over 13 miles high in
1935; C. T. Holliday, ‘Seeing the Earth from 80 Miles Up’, National Geographic XCVIII (4 Oct. 1950)
pp. 511–528, p. 511.
27. Ibid., p. 512.
28. Ibid., p. 512.
29. John E. Dahlquist, ‘Foreword’, in N. A. Parsons, Jr., Guided Missiles in War and Peace
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1956) p. 6.
30. S. B. Johnson, The Secret of Apollo: Systems Management in American and European Space
Programs (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 2002) p. 84.
31. Bragg (note 18) p. 176.
32. MacDonald, ‘Anti-Astropolitik’ (note 8).
33. Neufeld, Von Braun (note 23) p. 351.
34. G. Ó Tuathail, Critical Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press 1996); S. Dalby, ‘Critical Geopolitics: Discourse, Difference and Dissent’, Environment
and Planning D: Society and Space 9.3 (1991) pp. 261–283.
35. N. Smith, ‘Is a Critical Geopolitics Possible? Foucault, Class and the Vision Thing’, Political
Geography 19 (2000) pp. 365–371; M. Heffernan, ‘Balancing Visions: Comments on Gearóid Ó Tuathail’s
Critical Geopolitics’, Political Geography 19 (2000) pp. 347–352; N. Thrift, ‘It’s the Little Things’, in
K. Dodds and D. Atkinson (eds.), Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Thought (London:
Routledge 2000) pp. 380–387.
36. See for instance: J. Sharp, ‘Hegemony, Popular Culture and Geopolitics: The Reader’s Digest
and the Construction of Danger’, Political Geography 15 (1996) pp. 557–570; J. Sharp, Condensing the
Cold War: The Reader’s Digest and American Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2000);
J. Dittmer, ‘Captain America’s Empire: Reflections on Identity, Popular Culture, and Post-9/11 Geopolitics’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95 (2005) pp. 626–643; K. Dodds, ‘Licensed to
Stereotype: Popular Geopolitics, James Bond and the Spectre of Balkanism’, Geopolitics 8 (2003)
pp. 125–156; M. Power and J. Crampton, ‘Reel Geopolitics: Cinemato-Graphing Political Space’, Geopolitics 10 (2005) pp. 193–203.
37. Thrift, ‘It’s the Little Things’ (note 35).
38. J. Hughes, ‘Deconstructing the Bomb: Recent Perspectives on Nuclear History’, British Journal
for the History of Science 27 (2004) pp. 455–464, p. 456.
39. J. Canaday, The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics and the First Atomic Bombs (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press 2000); P. Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture
at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 1994).
Space and the Atom 633
40. Canaday (note 39) p. 223.
41. B. C. Taylor, ‘‘Our Bruised Arms Hung Up as Monuments’: Nuclear Iconography in Post-Cold
War Culture’, Critical Studies in Media Communications 20 (2003) pp. 1–24, p. 6.
42. D. Carter, The Final Frontier: The Rise and Fall of the American Rocket State (New York: Verso 1988).
43. I. Fleming, Goldfinger (London: Coronet Books 1959).
44. K. Dodds, ‘Screening Geopolitics: James Bond and the Early Cold War Films’, Geopolitics 10
(2005) pp. 266–289; K. Dodds, ‘Popular Geopolitics and Audience Dispositions: James Bond and the
Internet Movie Database (IMDb)’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 31 (2006) pp. 116–130;
K. Dodds, ‘Licensed to Stereotype: Geopolitics, James Bond and the Spectre of Balkanism’, Geopolitics
8.2 (2003) pp. 125–156; Power and Crampton (note 36).
45. See for instance: James Der Derian, ‘War as Game’, The Brown Journal of World Affairs 10.1
(2003) pp. 37–48; J. Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (London: Beacon
Press 1971).
46. C. Philo and F. Smith, ‘Guest Editorial: Political Geographies of Children and Young People’,
Space and Polity 7.2 (2003) pp. 99–115.
47. S. L. Holloway and G. Valentine, Children’s Geographies: Playing, Living, Learning (London:
Routledge 2000).
48. C. Harker, ‘Playing and Affective Time-Spaces’, Children’s Geographies 3.1 (2005) pp. 47–62;
D. Fleming, Powerplay: Toys as Popular Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1996); B. SuttonSmith, The Ambiguity of Play (Boston: Harvard University Press 1997); D. W. Winnicott, Playing and
Reality (London: Tavistock Publications 1971).
49. N. Thrift, ‘Closer to the Machine? Intelligent Environments, New Forms of Possession and the
Rise of the Supertoy’, Cultural Geographies 10 (2003) pp. 389–407.
50. Ibid., p. 390.
51. The Toyman, ‘Dinky Toys News’, Meccano Magazine 64.11 (Nov. 1959) p. 498.
52. See MacDonald, ‘Geopolitics’ (note 13); F. MacDonald, ‘The Last Outpost of Empire: Rockall
and the Cold War’, Journal of Historical Geography 32 (2006) pp. 627–647.
53. M. Van Cleemput, The Great Book of Corgi, 1956–1983 (London: New Cavendish Books 1989).
54. D. Fleming (note 48) p. 68.
55. Ibid.
56. W. Benjamin, ‘Toys and Play: Marginal Notes on a Monumental Work’, in M. W. Jennings,
H. Eiland, and G. Smith (eds.), Walter Benjamin Selected Writings Volume II (Cambridge, MA: Belknap
Press 1999).
57. B. Sutton-Smith, Toys as Culture (New York: Gardener Press 1986) p. 204.
58. D. Fleming (note 48) p. 33.
59. I am indebted to one of the referees for making me think about this.
60. M. Richardson, Collecting Dinky Toys (London: Francis Joseph Publications 2001) p. 6.
61. D. Fleming (note 48) p. 67, p. 90.
62. Thrift, ‘Closer to the Machine?’ (note 49) p. 395.
63. A mint condition Dinky Corporal might fetch US$800.
64. Sutton-Smith, The Ambiguity (note 48) p. 192.
65. R. Oldenziel, ‘Boys and Their Toys: The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, 1930–1968, and the
Making of a Male Technical Domain’, in R. Horowitz (ed.), Boys and Their Toys? Masculinity, Technology
and Class in America (New York: Routledge 2001) pp. 139–168.
66. H. Haber, ‘Space Satellites: Tools of Earth Research’, National Geographic CIX.4 (April 1956)
pp. 486–509, p. 494.
67. S. Kirsch, Proving Grounds: Project Ploughshare and the Unrealized Dream of Nuclear EarthMoving (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press 2006).
68. MacDonald, Anti-Astropolitik (note 8).
69. M. Cervino, S. Corradini, and S. Davolio, ‘Is the Peaceful Use of Outer Space Being Ruled
Out?’, Space Policy 19 (2003) pp. 231–237.
70. D. Lambert, L. Martins, and M. Ogborn, ‘Currents, Visions and Voyages: Historical Geographies
of the Sea’, Journal of Historical Geography 32 (2006) pp. 479–493; J. R. Ryan, ‘‘Our Home on the
Ocean’: Lady Brassey and the Voyages of the Sunbeam 1878–1886’, Journal of Historical Geography 32
(2006) pp. 579–604.
71. Redfield, ‘The Half-Life’ (note 12) p. 814.
634 Fraser MacDonald
72. K. M. D. Lane, ‘Geographers of Mars: Cartographic Inscription and Exploration Narrative in
Late Victorian Representations of the Red Planet’, Isis 96 (2005) pp. 477–506; K. M. D. Lane, ‘Mapping
the Mars Canal Mania: Cartographic Projection and the Creation of a Popular Icon’, Imago Mundi: The
International Journal for the History of Cartography 58.2 (2006) pp. 198–211; J. Dittmer, ‘Colonialism and
Place Creation in Mars Pathfinder Media Coverage’, Geographical Review 97.1 (2007) pp. 112–130.
73. D. Cosgrove, ‘Moon’, in S. Harrison, S. Pile, and N. Thrift (eds.), Patterned Ground: Entanglements
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