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Mad on Radium Grant Jacobs Dec 12

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(Still trying to complete the Christmas shopping list? I’m going to bring to you a couple of book reviews for readers who like more than the latest ‘trashy’ thriller.)

New Zealand wasn’t always anti-nuclear. In fact, as New Zealand writer Rebecca Priestley shows us, it was distinctly pro-nuclear.

Mad on Radium explores the corners of how the ‘nuclear age’ came to New Zealand and New Zealanders’ responses to it, their involvement in it.

It’s revealing to peer back into our recent past and see how it was, rather than what we now portray ourselves as. There’s intriguing titbits throughout, accompanied by many photographs, cartoons, advertisements and posters.

It’s probably not appreciated by younger New Zealanders that New Zealand provided some scientists for the Manhattan project, that New Zealand supported the British bomb tests in the Pacific, that radium was a popular ‘healthy’ product marketed to consumers.

The illustrations are excellent and tell their own stories. One map shows the proposed effects of ‘Atomic bombing of Wellington City’. Who remembers annual x-rays for tuberculosis, featured in one poster: ‘Make a date for MASS X-RAY’.

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