Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Political Science

Content Description

1 online resource (xii, 438 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Rey Koslowski

Committee Members

Victor Asal


Innovation, Policy, Radio, Satellite, Technology, Telegraph, Export controls, Technology and international relations, Technology transfer, National security, High technology industries

Subject Categories

History | International Relations | Public Policy


This dissertation examines the effects that policies instituted to restrict the diffusion of technology between countries have on the development of technology and international relations. Diffusion restrictions such as export controls or strategic trade controls are often instituted for the purpose of increasing the national security of the implementing country. However, this project theorizes that these types of restrictions can have unforeseen effects on the level of technological development in the implementing country and other countries around the world. The implementing country will see a decrease in their relative level of technological development while other countries around the world will see their relative levels of technological development increase. As a result of these processes, as well as other externalities of technology diffusion restrictions, the implementing country can experience a decrease in their national security contrary to the intention of the policymakers. This dissertation examines these processes by tracing the historical development of telecommunications technologies from the telegraph to the radio and then to communications satellites. The chapter on the telegraph demonstrates how economic motives stimulated the development of the telegraph and how the unrestricted diffusion of the telegraph permitted Britain to dominate both the manufacture of telegraph equipment and the provision of telegraph services. This domination led to numerous innovations connected to the telegraph and provided Britain with a strategic advantage over its rivals. The radio chapter shows that the development of the radio was again concentrated in the hands of Britain and the U.S., and that these countries enjoyed a first-mover advantage from developing the radio before others could. The chapter on communications satellite technology begins by explaining how the U.S. was able to initially develop this technology because of its previous dominance of predecessor technologies such as radio, telephone, and aerospace. This chapter then explores how the imposition of restrictions on technology diffusion harmed the U.S. satellite industry and stimulated the development of industries elsewhere in the world. One case study within this chapter explores how Europe was first stimulated to develop the indigenous capacity for launching satellites by the U.S. refusal in the 1970s to launch communications satellites on behalf of several European countries. Europe later benefited by serving as a substitute supplier when the U.S. instituted broad restrictions on the export of satellites or satellite components in the late 1990s. Another case study shows how the U.S. refusal to permit the sale of satellite and rocket technologies to India stimulated the development of its indigenous space launch and satellite-production capacity, which later allowed India to develop the indigenous capacity for producing ballistic missiles as well. Throughout each of these chapters, these various processes' implications for international relations are also observed and discussed.