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What widely held historical ideas are in the process of being overturned?(r/AskHistorians)
In the last decade or so there has been a serious revision of the importance of the atomic bombs in ending World War II, due primarily to the work of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. His book Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan argues pretty effectively that in the minds of the Japanese Imperial government, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria is what really caused them to surrender when they did, not the atomic bombs. He has done quite a good job of going over the Japanese sources to really fill out their side of the story in a way that had been conspicuously lacking in previous historical work.
Not everyone is convinced (I’m a bit on the fence myself), but his book has certainly changed the terms of debate, and, at least with respect to every historian of the bomb I know (which is quite a lot of them!), pretty much everyone is willing to at least go half-way with Hasegawa, in that they are de-coupling the old cause-and-effect implications about the bomb and the end of the war.
That is, the typical story has always gone, “the US wanted to end the war quickly, they dropped two bombs, and Japan surrendered.” Which is true! It’s just that the correlation of those last two clauses may not actually equate with causation. The old debate about the “decision to use the bomb” always took for granted that the bomb actually mattered, in the end, but Hasegawa has really opened that up again as a live historical issue, and one which is actually in many ways entirely separate from the question of the motivation to use the bomb.