The Economic Weapon The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War Nicholas Mulder

Publication date:
22 Feb 2022
Yale University Press
448 pages: 235 x 156mm
15 b-w illus.
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The first international history of the emergence of economic sanctions during the interwar period and the legacy of this development

Economic sanctions dominate the landscape of world politics today. First developed in the early twentieth century as a way of exploiting the flows of globalization to defend liberal internationalism, their appeal is that they function as an alternative to war. This view, however, ignores the dark paradox at their core: designed to prevent war, economic sanctions are modeled on devastating techniques of warfare.  
Tracing the use of economic sanctions from the blockades of World War I to the policing of colonial empires and the interwar confrontation with fascism, Nicholas Mulder uses extensive archival research in a political, economic, legal, and military history that reveals how a coercive wartime tool was adopted as an instrument of peacekeeping by the League of Nations. This timely study casts an overdue light on why sanctions are widely considered a form of war, and why their unintended consequences are so tremendous.

Nicholas Mulder is an assistant professor of modern European history at Cornell University and regular contributor to Foreign Policy and The Nation.

The Economic Weapon is a superb account of the history of sanctions, and their profound impact on international politics. Although sanctions were once heralded as a force for peace, Mulder shows they often fail and sometimes make war more likely or even produce a humanitarian nightmare."—John Mearsheimer, author of The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities


“This is a tour de force of historical research and argument. With great subtlety and richness, Nicholas Mulder transforms our understanding of twentieth century global and international history.”—David Edgerton, King’s College London

"Mulder reveals the history of liberalism's ultimate weapon. An essential contribution both to scholarship and to the present day debate on economic sanctions."—Adam Tooze, author of Shutdown: The Global Crises of 2020