The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is the principal foreign policy research center at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The Center is the hub of the school’s research, teaching and training in international security and diplomacy, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.
Several of these issues intersected in the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. For decades, the Center’s faculty and fellows have analyzed the many factors and personalities that determined the outcome of what is often called the most dangerous moment in history. The Belfer Center’s director, Professor Graham Allison, is the author of the 1971 study, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (an updated edition in 1999 was co-authored by Allison and Philip Zelikow). Many other researchers have produced important research about the crisis over the years.
To mark the 50th anniversary, the Belfer Center’s team of researchers, including Peter Bacon, Ben Rhode, and Roumiana Theunissen, assembled this collection of original documents and historical analysis of the crisis and its implications. In line with the mission of the Belfer Center and the Kennedy School, the site emphasizes lessons and learning opportunities flowing from the crisis. For example, an original lesson plan provides teachers with tools to engage students in thinking about the missile crisis and its implications for world leaders today. The timeline offers an interactive guide to the evolution of the crisis beginning in 1945.
The website was created by the Belfer Center’s digital communications manager, Arielle Dworkin, with support from the communications team, James F. Smith, Sharon Wilke, and Traci Farrell. Many others at the Belfer Center suggested content and otherwise contributed to the site.
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