American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe

From Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology

American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe

By John Krige





In 1945, the United States was not only the strongest economic and military power in the world; it was also the world's leader in science and technology. In American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe, John Krige describes the efforts of influential figures in the United States to model postwar scientific practices and institutions in Western Europe on those in America. They mobilized political and financial support to promote not just America's scientific and technological agendas in Western Europe but its Cold War political and ideological agendas as well.

Drawing on the work of diplomatic and cultural historians, Krige argues that this attempt at scientific dominance by the United States can be seen as a form of "consensual hegemony," involving the collaboration of influential local elites who shared American values. He uses this notion to analyze a series of case studies that describe how the U.S. administration, senior officers in the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the NATO Science Committee, and influential members of the scientific establishment—notably Isidor I. Rabi of Columbia University and Vannevar Bush of MIT—tried to Americanize scientific practices in such fields as physics, molecular biology, and operations research. He details U.S. support for institutions including CERN, the Niels Bohr Institute, the French CNRS and its laboratories at Gif near Paris, and the never-established "European MIT." Krige's study shows how consensual hegemony in science not only served the interests of postwar European reconstruction but became another way of maintaining American leadership and "making the world safe for democracy."


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262112970 392 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262612258 392 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Krige is a forceful writer, and the implications of his research are sure to be provocative and long lasting.

  • In this path-breaking analysis of international science policy after World War II, John Krige argues that the United States attempted, and to some extent succeeded, in remolding the organization of western European science to align with its own political and ideological interests…Anyone interested in the history of science during the Cold War ought to become familiar with this book. Indeed, anyone interested in the broader topics of post-1945 Europe or the mutual interaction of science and empire-building in any era will find it a valuable read.

  • John Krige's book combines insights from the history of U.S. foreign relations and science studies in order to examine how American patronage shaped the scientific enterprise in Europe after World War II. Cold War politics and American dollars, Krige argues, combined with the aspirations of scientific communities on both sides of the Atlantic to produce a scientific order consonant with American ideals and foreign policy objectives.

    American Historical Review

  • John Krige's new book is a great book, a book that has two major assets. It is first a collection of half a dozen superb case studies of American interventions in the scientific rebuilding of post–World War II (mainly Continental) Europe. It is also the first general account of the place given to science and technology in American foreign policy between 1944 and the mid-1960s, the first attempt at showing its coherence, its deliberate integration into the set of tools needed to militarily and ideologically win the cold war. In both domains, the book is a real success.

  • John Krige's scholarly new work…merits a place on the shelf of anyone with a serious interest in trans-Atlantic relations during the postwar decades…Krige's book leaves much to do. His subtle treatment nevertheless provides an exemplar for others who wish to explore trans-Atlantic relations, whether in science or in other fields of common interest, and is, in this important way, a path-breaking work.

    Business History Review

  • Until now, there have been few studies of the role of science in the ideological struggle for post-war European hearts and minds. John Krige's superb new book goes a long way towards repairing this omission. He shows for the first time how science was an integral part of the creation of American hegemony in post-war Europe.


  • John Krige's impressively researched case studies document a US cold-war agenda for shaping European science that was deeply political—yet, for all of America's preponderance of material resources, subject to continuous negotiation. As a book that also reveals how the enrollment of science became a project for state-building, this work is important for students of American power, hard and soft.

    Charles S. Maier

    Saltonstall Professor of History, Harvard University