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The Economic Weapon
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About the Author

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

Reviews

“Valuable . . . offers many lessons for Western policy makers today.”—Paul Kennedy, Wall Street Journal

“Lucidly written, scholarly and thought-provoking.”—Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

“Mulder . . . looks at sanctions over the three decades after the First World War—and reaches unsettling conclusions. . . . The lessons are sobering.”—The Economist

“Mulder charts how the rise of economic sanctions and blockade during the interwar years, as a tool to enforce peace, drove the autarkic policies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, ultimately destabilising the international system rather than fortifying it.”—Robin Harding, Financial Times

“Mulder argues in his impeccably well-researched and, because of its timeliness, gripping book that ‘sanctions did not stop political and economic disintegration but accelerated it’ in the interwar period. . . . Mulder’s book provides an uncomfortable warning that while sanctions have sometimes worked, they have also been contentious, ineffective and counterproductive.”—Emma Duncan, The Times

“This revelatory history of ‘economic warfare’—blockades and sanctions—reminds us that up to 400,000 people died of blockade-induced malnutrition in Central Europe in the First World War, plus 500,000 in the Ottoman Middle East. You will look at twentieth-century history with fresh eyes.”—Noel Malcolm, Daily Telegraph, “Perfect Holiday Reads”

"A fortuitously timed history of the use of economic sanctions during the interwar period of the 20th century. Their mixed success cautions against hoping that the West’s sanctions against Russia can bring about an end to war in Ukraine."—The Economist, "Best Books of 2022"

A Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2022

“As Nicholas Mulder shows in The Economic Weapon, a much longer history lies behind the invention of modern sanctions.”—Tom Stevenson, London Review of Books

“A fascinating new book. . . . Taken as a superbly researched work of history, it lights up key aspects of the twentieth century in a deeply thought-provoking way.”—Noel Malcolm, Daily Telegraph

“Original and persuasive analysis. . . . For those who see economic sanctions as a relatively mild way of expressing displeasure at a country’s behavior, this book, charting how they first emerged as a potential coercive instrument during the first decades of the twentieth century, will come as something of a revelation.”—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

“[A] superb study of sanctions during the interwar era. . . . Mulder’s fascinating story weaves together politics, economics and law [and] provides invaluable insight into the experience of sanctions one hundred years ago.”—Max Harris, Times Literary Supplement

“An excellent historical study. . . . Western countries have directed an unprecedentedly severe battery of punitive economic measures against Russia. . . . For those of us seeking better to understand this reaction and gauge its likely efficacy, there is no better place to turn than Cornell historian Nicholas Mulder’s erudite and uncannily timely book on the origins of economic sanctions."—Alexander Watson, Literary Review

“Mulder’s examination of the details of economic diplomacy in the interwar era makes for fascinating reading, and at the least it will remind us that, in the case of determined dictators, something more than sanctions may be needed.”—Matthew Partridge, Money Week, “Book of the Week”

“There are few books that can be said to be timely like Nicholas Mulder's The Economic Weapon . . . [it is] an important contribution to the history of economics and international relations in the interwar period.”—Roman Köster, sehepunkte

Winner of the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize for best first book by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)

“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.&rdquot;—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: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy


"A fortuitously timed history of the use of economic sanctions during the interwar period of the 20th century. Their mixed success cautions against hoping that the West’s sanctions against Russia can bring about an end to war in Ukraine."—The Economist, "Best Books of 2022"
*Economist*

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