Nicholas Mulder works on European and international history from the nineteenth century to the present. His research focuses on political, economic, military and intellectual history, with particular attention to the era of the world wars between 1914 and 1945.
His book The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (Yale University Press, 2022) is a history of the interwar origins of economic sanctions. The book shows that sanctions emerged from wartime blockade practices, which were reconfigured after WWI to offer a novel way to avoid and halt interstate war. Between the world wars, sanctions were the peacekeeping tool of choice of the League of Nations and of major liberal empires, enabling distant coercion against civilian societies in peacetime, spurring new economic interventions, and accelerating anti-liberal autarky projects among fascist powers. The Economic Weapon argues that sanctions, then as now, are a potent but unpredictable geopolitical tool, and that they were much more important to the international crisis of the 1930s and 1940s than usually assumed.
The Economic Weapon was named a Best Book of 2022 by The Economist and Foreign Affairs and was awarded the 2023 Stuart L. Bernath Prize for best first book by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). The book has been translated into Japanese (Tokyo: Nikkei Business Publications, 2023), traditional Chinese (Taipei: Acropolis, 2023), and simplified Chinese (Guangzhou: Guangdong People's Publishing House, 2023), and a Vietnamese translation is forthcoming with Suthat Publishing House in 2024.
Mulder is currently writing a book, titled The Age of Confiscation, on the international history of expropriation. This book examines the seizure of property within the great transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries–from the absolutist and revolutionary destruction of feudalism to the emancipation of slaves and serfs, and from the sequestration of foreign assets in the world wars to the nationalization and privatization of industry and infrastructure in the postwar era. The book shows how large-scale coercive asset transfers have been a major force in recent political and economic history, as societies have been shaped by the proprietarian and confiscatory sides of state power.
His other interests include the history of Eurasia in the long run; the relationship between economic globalization, democracy, and authoritarianism; the experience of small states in the global condition; the history of political and economic thought; and philosophy of history.
Mulder has written about European history, politics, economics, and international affairs for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Economist, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, n+1, New Left Review, The Nation, The New Statesman, Merkur, Dissent, H-Diplo, Het Financieel Dagblad, Le Grand Continent, Internazionale and other publications. Links to his articles, essays, and book reviews are available through his personal website.
In addition to his appointment in the Department of History, Mulder is a Faculty Associate at Cornell's Einaudi Center for International Studies and a member of the Steering Committee of the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.
- Political and economic history of modern Europe
- International history
- Historical political economy
- Economic sanctions
- Confiscation and property regimes
- History of war (especially 1870 to 1945)
- Varieties of internationalism
- History of international law
The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2022).
Articles and Book Chapters
"The Neoliberal Transition in Economic History," Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 84 No. 3 (July 2023).
"Asian Commercial Power and Economic Sanctions Against Russia," East Asia Forum Quarterly Vol. 15 No. 2 (June 2023).
"The Trump Administration and Economic Sanctions," in Robert Jervis, Diane Labrosse, Stacie Goddard, and Joshua Rovner, eds., Chaos Reconsidered: The Liberal Order and the Future of International Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2023), 152-160.
"The Sanctions Weapon," Finance and Development: A Quarterly Publication of the International Monetary Fund Vol. 59 Issue 2 (June 2022): 20-23.
(With Boyd van Dijk), "Why Did Starvation Not Become the Paradigmatic War Crime in International Law?" in Kevin Jon Heller and Ingo Venzke, eds., Contingency in International Law: On the Possibility of Different Legal Histories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021): 370-390.
"The Trading with the Enemy Acts in the Age of Expropriation, 1914-1949," Journal of Global History Vol. 15, No. 1 (March 2020): 81-99.
"‘A Retrograde Tendency’: The Expropriation of German Property in the Versailles Treaty," Journal of the History of International Law/Revue d'histoire du droit international Vol. 22, No. 1 (2020): 507-530.
"The Rise and Fall of Euro-American Inter-State War," Humanity, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 2019).
"War Finance," in Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, eds., 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, Freie Universität Berlin (February 2018).
In the news
- Sanctions Against Russia Ignore the Economic Challenges Facing Ukraine
- Don’t Expect Sanctions To Win the Ukraine War
- Experts: Ukraine war puts world in ‘uncharted territory’
- Environmental degradation focus of LaFeber-Silbey lecture March 10
- Economic sanctions evolved into tool of modern war
- COP 26 ushers ‘new domain of geopolitics’ as Russia demands sanction relief
- ‘Mild’ Russian sanctions signal need for de-escalation
- World Economic Forum features history professor’s analysis
- My Country Is Under Attack