Military History International Efforts to Control War
by
Jesse Kauffman
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0175

Introduction

While informal restraints on organized violence have existed in many times and places, the formal attempt to regulate, contain, and otherwise manage war by states is a modern affair. Beginning in the 19th century, against a backdrop of a rapid and exponential increase in the destructive power of weaponry, governments, acting out of a mix of interests, came together to formalize and codify the rules governing the circumstances under which a state might legitimately go to war, as well as, once at war, the means and methods that might be employed in the fighting. (These are the two broad areas into which the laws and customs of war are generally sorted: jus ad bellum, or the legitimate reasons for war, and jus in bello, just behavior in war, though it is a matter of some dispute how discrete these categories can and should be). Drawing on a centuries-old Christian “just war” tradition, the 19th-century pioneers of international regulation of war created a legal foundation that endures to this day. Over time, the belief that war could be controlled and limited evolved into a hope that it could perhaps be eliminated from the world altogether. Over the course of the first half of the 20th century, these beliefs and practices would be sorely tested, and perhaps shattered, by the horrific violence of the world wars. Nonetheless, the destruction of the war years demonstrated to contemporaries the urgent need to continue the work of those early pioneers. The principles, institutions, and interests driving international attempts to control war after 1945 were in many respects quite different from those that had crystallized in the 19th century. The hopes and fears of those earlier times, however, continued to haunt the 20th century, magnified by the enormity of the destructive power possessed by states in the atomic age. Though many different cultures have produced their own laws and customs of war, the focus of this article is on “the West,” generally meaning Europe and the United States. This is because, for the period under discussion, it was the Western just war tradition that informed the behavior and ideas of those intellectuals and politicians who, acting with and through Western governments, created the modern legal-political structure that underpins international attempts to restrain war to this day.

General Overviews and Document Collections

A special challenge (or reward) awaiting the historian of this topic is its fundamentally interdisciplinary nature. Works by historians on international attempts to control war (Howard, et al. 1997; Keegan 1993; Sheehan 2008; Best 1980; Tracy 2005—all under Surveys, Essay Collections, and Handbooks) are complemented by those authored by legal scholars (Koskenniemi 2002, Tanenhaus 2008, Bailey 1972—also under Surveys, Essay Collections, and Handbooks), as well as those who straddle both worlds (Maguire 2010, under Surveys, Essay Collections, and Handbooks). An extensive collection of primary sources can be found at the Avalon Project and in Gillespie 2011 and Roberts and Guelff 2000 (all under Document Collections). The history of the ideas that have driven international attempts to control war has been synthesized and analyzed in Johnson 1975, Johnson 1981, and Johnson 2011 (all under Intellectual Foundations). A short, focused introduction can be found in Howard 2000 (under Intellectual Foundations). Important foundational primary sources are Grotius 2012 and Kant 2006 (under Intellectual Foundations). Walzer 2015 (under Intellectual Foundations) continues the debate about just and unjust wars into the present day.

Surveys, Essay Collections, and Handbooks

Of the possible introductions to the topic, the best are Howard, et al. 1997, which is expansive and accessible, and Best 1980. Fassbender and Peters 2014 provides a good overview of legal aspects within historical context. Emphasis on the development of laws as restraints in wartime can be found in Bailey 1972, Tanenhaus 2008, and Maguire 2010. The history of international law itself can be found in Koskenniemi 2002. Tracy 2005 addresses the often overlooked naval aspects. Sheehan 2008 and Keegan 1993 provide studies in the sociocultural history of warfare.

  • Bailey, Sydney. Prohibitions and Restraints in War. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.

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    Expansive in its sweep and legalistic in its writing and analysis; critical of the inability to come to grips with the continued reality of war after 1945. Published by Oxford for the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

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  • Best, Geoffrey. Humanity in Warfare. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

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    Long a standard work in the field and a model of how legal, political, and cultural history can be synthesized and brought to bear on the topic. It focuses primarily on the period from the Enlightenment to the late 20th century.

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  • Fassbender, Bardo, and Anne Peters, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    In the modern period, the history of restraint in war became inseparable from the history of international law; this book provides invaluable historical background on that process, including key dates, events, and treaties, as well as historical-legal analysis.

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  • Howard, Michael, George J. Andreopoulos, and Mark R. Shulman, eds. The Laws of War: Constraints on Warfare in the Western World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

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    A classic in the field and the essential starting point for any historical research into how and why Western societies have sought to restrain war; Michael Howard is one of the 20th century’s foremost historians of warfare, and the volume contains contributions from experts on topics ranging from the ancient world to post-1945 wars of decolonization. The book makes the important point that laws are only one of the means that societies have used to regulate war; informal and unspoken restraints have mattered as well.

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  • Keegan, John. A History of Warfare. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

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    Draws together the cultural, social, and political forces that shape how societies fight wars; useful background reading for investigations into how they seek to avoid and limit the same.

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  • Koskenniemi, Martti. The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law, 1870–1960. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    While its focus is on international law as a whole, and not only its relation to armed conflict, this is a key work on the evolution of international law.

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  • Maguire, Peter. Law and War: International Law and American History. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

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    Provides a view of specifically American political and intellectual engagement with the laws of warfare; argues that a long-standing, problematic belief in American exceptionalism extended to this arena.

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  • Sheehan, James. Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

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    A survey of the place of war, soldiers, and armies within European states and politics since the 19th century; like Keegan’s work, important for grasping the broad political and cultural background within which attempts to restrain and control war have been (and continue to be) made.

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  • Tanenhaus, David, ed. Special Issue: Law, War, and History. Law and History Review 26.3 (2008).

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    Special edition of a legal-historical journal; articles range from ancient world to present day. Includes an essay on early Islamic tradition.

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  • Tracy, Nicholas. Sea Power and the Control of Trade: Belligerent Rights from the Russian War to the Beira Patrol: 1854–1970. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005.

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    Somewhat more focused than a book that might normally qualify as a survey, but given the dearth of works on maritime conflict, Tracy’s book can be used as a point of initial entry into more specific topics. Published by Ashgate for the Navy Records Society.

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Document Collections

The key primary documents for the researcher in the field of international attempts to restrain war are treaties and other forms of international agreements as well as legal documents. The Avalon Project is to be particularly recommended for its extensive scope and ease of access. Gillespie 2011 contains a wealth of documents, while Roberts and Guelff 2000 is focused on the modern era.

  • The Avalon Project.

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    Maintained by Yale Law School, the Avalon Project is a collection of treaties, legal documents, and other sources from the history of international relations, including the history of the laws of war. Stretches chronologically from ancient times to the present day.

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  • Gillespie, Alexander. A History of the Laws of War. 3 vols. Oxford: Hart, 2011.

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    A somewhat idiosyncratic work in which the author uses the laws of war to test humankind’s “progress” over the millennia; chronologically extensive collection of treaties.

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  • Roberts, Adam, and Richard Guelff. Documents on the Laws of War. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Prepared with an eye for use by scholars as well as those who have a need to draw on and apply these laws; contains major treaties and other documents, as well as explanatory text, beginning with the 1856 Paris Declaration on Maritime Law.

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Intellectual Foundations

The intellectual and cultural traditions that gave rise to the Western just war tradition, which in turn shaped the legal and institutional architecture of international attempts to regulate war, can be traced back to the Middle Ages; the best historical surveys of their development are those by James Turner Johnson (Johnson 1975, Johnson 1981, Johnson 2011). Hugo Grotius was an early advocate of formal rules to limit war; Grotius 2012 is a recent edition of his important work. Kant 2006 (originally published in 1795) dared to imagine a world in which war had been abolished. Howard 2000 sketches the history of that idea since the 18th century.

  • Grotius, Hugo. On the Law of War and Peace. Student edition. Edited by Stephen C. Neff. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    Key work by the 17th-century scholar widely regarded as the “founding father” of international law. Living in an age of religious and political warfare, Grotius was troubled by, in his own words, “a lack of restraint in relation to war,” and he drew on natural law to distill internationally binding principles of both jus ad bellum and jus in bello.

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  • Howard, Michael. The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War and International Order. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

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    An intellectual history of the idea that war can be controlled; Howard is not only a superb historian, he is a gifted writer as well, translating complex ideas into smooth, clear, graceful prose. He begins from the assumption that peace is abnormal, hence the constant struggle to create and maintain it. He argues that the state is central to both war and peace.

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  • Johnson, James Turner. Ideology, Reason, and the Limitation of War: Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200–1740. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.

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    Essential exploration, by a scholar of the history of religion and the ethics of war, of the cultural and intellectual raw material from which the Western just war tradition was forged.

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  • Johnson, James Turner. Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War: A Moral and Historical Inquiry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

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    Continues Johnson’s survey of the intellectual history of the restraints on how and why peoples go to war, concentrating on the 16th century through the first half of the 20th century.

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  • Johnson, James Turner. Ethics and the Use of Force: Just War in Historical Perspective. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    More recent work by Johnson, which refreshes his historical overview of the development of just war theory and includes Islamic tradition; brings his ideas to bear on contemporary concerns.

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  • Kant, Immanuel. Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History. Edited by Pauline Kleingeld. Translated by David L. Colclasure. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

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    The first Western philosopher to posit that war could, through international cooperation and the abolition of what Kant believed to be the fundamental causes of war, be restrained into nonexistence; an important work in the history of intellectual history, Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace also continues to be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, and insight to those who share in its dreams of a world from which war has been eliminated.

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  • Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. 5th ed. New York: Basic Books, 2015.

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    The single most influential attempt to rethink the just war tradition in an age when it has become detached from the religious roots that created it. Whether or not a reader agrees with Walzer’s arguments, any seriously informed discussion of just war thought in the present day must engage with them.

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International Relations in the 19th Century

The second half of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th were a watershed era in the history of international attempts to control war. Since these attempts were inseparable from the international political contexts within which they were created, a grasp of the principal actors, interests, events, and ideas that shaped the period is essential. Abbenhuis 2014, Rich 1992, and Schroeder 1994 are all good surveys of how the international system functioned during this period. Marwil 2010 discusses the shock and fear created by the dawn of modern warfare. For the unease created by the rise of mass armies and modern weapons, see also Sheehan 2008, under Surveys, Essay Collections, and Handbooks.

  • Abbenhuis, Maartje M. An Age of Neutrals: Great Power Politics, 1815–1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139794695Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In an original and intriguing argument, Abbenhuis posits that neutrality was of central importance to the functioning of international relations in the 19th century.

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  • Marwil, Jonathan. Visiting Modern War in Risorgimento Italy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    While Marwil’s book does not bear directly on the laws and customs of war, it does illustrate the reaction to the horrific bloodshed of the 1859 War of Italian Unification (which inspired, among other things, the creation of the Red Cross). This helps the researcher grasp the broader cultural context of fear that the fury of modern warfare engendered, which, in turn, drove the movement toward restraint and arbitration.

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  • Rich, Norman. Great Power Diplomacy, 1814–1914. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.

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    Standard introductory work on international politics during this period, emphasizing the importance of diplomacy over positive law and international institutions.

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  • Schroeder, Paul. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994.

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    Also a long-standing foundational text, arguing that the upheavals of the Napoleonic era encouraged an era of international cooperation. Schroeder’s emphasis is on the analysis of international relations as a “system” with discernible and mutually recognized, if not always formally articulated, rules and practices.

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Conferences, Treaties, and Laws, c. 1850–1914

This era was distinguished by the numerous and significant attempts to translate the rules, customs, and practices that restrained war into laws and institutions. An important development was the issuing in 1863 of General Order 100 (also known as the Lieber Code), a set of legal guidelines for the operations of Union armies during the American Civil War. The Lieber Code and its importance are analyzed by Witt 2012, while the original text can be found in Hartigan 2011. The evolution of the laws governing military occupations more generally is detailed in Graber 1968. In 1874 an international conference was held in Brussels that resulted in an International Declaration Concerning the Laws and Customs of War (the Brussels Declaration); it is also discussed in Graber 1968. The momentum toward legal codification and international cooperation culminated in the two international peace and disarmament conferences held at The Hague, the first in 1899 and the second in 1907. Primary sources from the conferences are in Scott 1919. Holls 1900 analyzes the first conference, while Davis 1962 writes about American involvement in it. Important background to the Russians’ key involvement in the movement for international cooperation in limiting war can be found in Holquist 2004. Davis 1975 builds on the author’s previous work by examining the second conference. The standard overview of both conferences is Dülffer 1981. Ritter-Döring 2014 covers the laws of war at sea in this period.

  • Davis, Calvin. The United States and the First Hague Peace Conference. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1962.

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    Davis’s prize-winning study of American involvement in the First Hague Conference illustrates, with specific reference to the United States, the inherently self-defeating combination of international idealism and national interest that animated the political maneuvering there, and that ultimately both energized and thwarted the attempt to create a sturdy mechanism for resolving international disputes by arbitration rather than war. Published by Cornell University Press for the American Historical Association.

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  • Davis, Calvin. The United States and the Second Hague Peace Conference: American Diplomacy and International Organization, 1899–1914. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1975.

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    A successor volume that continues the analysis begun in Davis 1962; situates the conference within the context of other international conferences being held in the same period, and illustrates the links between them.

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  • Dülffer, Jost. Regeln Gegen Den Krieg?: Die Haager Friedenskonferenzen Von 1899 Und 1907 in Der Internationalen Politik. Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1981.

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    Based on Dülffer’s Habilitationsschrift, this book draws extensively on primary sources to examine the motives and conduct of the states at the Hague conferences.

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  • Graber, Doris A. The Development of the Law of Belligerent Occupation, 1863–1914: A Historical Survey. New York: AMS, 1968.

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    A key text on the codification of the laws of war in the 19th century, particularly as they related to one of the central concerns of the era: how both occupiers and occupied should conduct themselves in the event of a military occupation. It is also one of the few English-language analyses of the 1874 Brussels Declaration.

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  • Hartigan, Richard Shelly, ed. Military Rules, Regulations and the Code of War: Francis Lieber and the Certification of Conflict. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2011.

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    Contains the original text of the Lieber Code, along with additional related documents and a bibliography.

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  • Holls, Frederick William. The Peace Conference at The Hague, and Its Bearings on International Law and Policy. New York: Macmillan, 1900.

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    By a member of the American delegation to the 1899 conference, it is painfully evocative of the immense hopes that contemporaries invested in the conference. Contains a substantial discussion of the work to establish a means of conflict avoidance, rather than just limitation.

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  • Holquist, Peter. The Russian Empire as a ‘Civilized State’: International Law as Principle and Practice in Imperial Russia, 1874–1878. Washington, DC: National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, 2004.

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    For reasons that are subject to much debate, the Russian Empire was an advocate for the establishment of international restraints on war by the means of international law, and it called the meeting that became the First Hague Conference. This paper provides important background on international law in the empire in the decades before the conference.

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  • Ritter-Döring, Verena. Zwischen Normierung und Rüstungswettlauf: Die Entwicklung des Seekriegsrechts, 1856–1914. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos, 2014.

    DOI: 10.5771/9783845236582Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Study of the neglected area of how the laws of maritime warfare evolved at this time.

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  • Scott, James Brown. The Proceedings of the Hague Conferences, 1899 and 1907. New York: Oxford University Press, 1919.

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    English-language translations of sources from the conferences. Also available online.

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  • Witt, John Fabian. Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History. New York: Free Press, 2012.

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    A sweeping survey of the Lieber Code, charting its origins, development, and historical impact within the broader political context in which it unfolded.

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The First World War

There is a dreadful sense of dramatic irony that inevitably informs how we see the flurry of international activity in the late 19th century that was aimed at restraining war. The First World War broke out just seven years after the Second Hague Conference concluded, and the sheer scale of it challenged and overwhelmed the international legal framework for limiting wars that had been begun to emerge over the course of the 19th century. New weapons, extended military occupations, and the mobilization of entire societies to sustain the war effort challenged many of the key norms and principles that had informed this framework. Garner 1920 is a broad survey. The beginnings of air warfare, including the targeting of civilians, are discussed in Barros 2009 and Hull 2014. Hull 2014 is the most up-to-date and comprehensive of the surveys of international law during the First World War. Important for considering the moral and legal implications of Britain’s blockade of Germany, which also targeted civilians, are Bell 1937 and Cruttwell 1934. Haber 1986 documents the debut of a terrifying new weapon, poison gas. See also Garnett 1993, under Second World War, for both gas and aerial warfare. Primary sources can be found in Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1919 and the Transactions of the Grotius Society.

  • Barros, Andrew. “Strategic Bombing and Restraint in ‘Total War,’ 1915–1918.” The Historical Journal 52.2 (2009): 413–431.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X09007523Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The development of military aviation, especially the practice of strategic bombing, posed a formidable challenge to one of the longest-standing norms of the Western just war tradition: the distinction between combatants and noncombatants. Barros’s article compares the evolution of strategic bombing in in France and Great Britain during the First World War.

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  • Bell, Archibald. A History of the Blockade of Germany and the Countries Associated with Her in the Great War, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, 1914–1918. London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1937.

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    Along with strategic bombing, Great Britain’s blockade of Germany, which inevitably caused civilian suffering, also challenged the legal norms of earlier eras.

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  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Violation of the Laws and Customs of War: Reports of Majority and Dissenting Reports of American and Japanese Members of the Commission of Responsibilities, Conference of Paris, 1919. Pamphlet 32. Oxford: Clarendon, 1919.

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    Another key primary source for studying the interaction between the war and the law, though one whose postwar context should be borne in mind when reading. Can also be read online

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  • Cruttwell, Charles Robert Mowbray Fraser. A History of the Great War, 1914–1918. Oxford: Clarendon, 1934.

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    Includes coverage of the laws of war at sea at the time. Given the importance of the blockade, as well as submarine operations during the war, knowledge of maritime laws is essential for a thorough understanding of the scope and complexity of the legal problems raised by the war.

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  • Garner, James. International Law and the World War. London: Longmans Green, 1920.

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    Still considered the foundational work on the subject and a starting point for any advanced investigation of the historical-legal issues.

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  • Haber, L. F. The Poisonous Cloud: Chemical Warfare in the First World War. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

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    Perhaps too dense with detail for the nonspecialist, but touches on the legal issues raised by the development and use of this new weapon.

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  • Hull, Isabel. A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.

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    Includes in-depth legal and historical analysis of a range of topics, including the German occupation of Belgium, the British blockade of Germany, poison gas, prisoners of war, aviation, and submarine warfare; the key question is how the law affected the war, and vice versa.

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  • Lambert, Nicholas A. Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674063068Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sets the British blockade within the wider framework of British strategy, specifically its use of economic warfare.

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  • Transactions of the Grotius Society.

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    In 1915, lawyers in Great Britain formed the Grotius Society to discuss legal issues raised by the war, and its proceedings were published as this journal. It is an invaluable English-language primary source for the study of how lawyers tried to come to grips with the challenges of the war. Published through 1959.

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The Post–World War I Era: General Overviews

The years after the war were marked by an intense longing for new institutions that would prevent a horror like the one that had been the First World War. However, those who sought to forge a new, peaceful international order were presented with formidable political challenges. MacMillan 2002 is a good and comprehensive introduction to the immediate aftermath of the war, while Steiner 2007 is the key survey of the international history of the entire interwar period.

  • MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2002.

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    Panoramic survey of the welter of conflicting interests, resentments, and ambitions that drove the actors at the postwar peace conference and that made unified action so difficult. Beautifully and elegantly written with a particular knack for bringing the personalities of the actors vividly to life. Excellent choice for undergraduates.

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  • Steiner, Zara S. The Lights That Failed: European International History 1919–1933. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Survey of the profound challenges that faced the European society of states after the First World War, the context within which the attempts to regulate and abolish war must be situated and ultimately judged. Very detailed and best suited for graduate students and specialists.

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The Kellogg-Briand Pact and the League of Nations

Driven by the search for a new world order in the wake of the Great War, the League of Nations was founded in the hopes it would provide a mechanism by which international disputes could be peacefully resolved. An introduction to the League can be obtained by reading Northedge 1986, while the crucial American involvement and, later, lack of involvement is discussed in Knock 1995. Perhaps because it did nothing to prevent the Second World War, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, whose signatories renounced war, has not generated a rich or extensive literature, with Ferrell 1952 the key work. On the novel attempt to bring the law to bear on the defeated parties after the war, see Hankel 2014, under War Crimes Trials.

  • Ferrell, Robert. Peace in Their Time: The Origins of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952.

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    Standard work on the pact, which, though it did not prevent war, became an important part of the body of international law after the Second World War.

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  • Knock, Thomas J. To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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    Though the United States did not join the League of Nations and withdrew into isolationism after the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson was nonetheless a key figure in shaping postwar attempts to secure a lasting peace; Knock focuses on the League of Nations and on the entanglement of foreign and domestic politics that Wilson had to face when representing the United States at the postwar peace conference in Paris.

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  • Northedge, F. S. The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 1920–1946. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1986.

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    Standard history of the League; highlights both its failures and successes (with the former outweighing the latter), and analyzes the reasons for its ultimate ineffectiveness.

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Arms Control, 1918–1939

Along with the League of Nations, enormous hopes were placed in the potential for international arms control agreements—and, possibly, complete disarmament—to prevent war. One of the areas that most occupied diplomats and politicians at the time was naval warfare; Goldman 1994 provides analysis rooted in the methodology of political science. The collected contributions in McKercher 1992 cover numerous areas and topics, while Spiers 2010 discusses poison gas.

  • Goldman, Emily O. Sunken Treaties: Naval Arms Control between the Wars. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

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    Goldman is primarily interested in the nature of arms control and its application during the Cold War, using naval armaments in the interwar period as a particular case study from which general principles may be deduced.

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  • McKercher, B. Arms Limitation and Disarmament: Restraints on War, 1899–1939. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992.

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    Despite the book’s title, the emphasis is actually on the interwar years, with essays by various authors on topics such as disarmament, peace movements, and maritime agreements.

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  • Spiers, Edward. A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons. London: Reaktion, 2010.

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    The first two chapters of this work deal with the use of chemical weapons during the First World War and the consequent attempts after the war to regulate their use.

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Peace Movements after World War I

While their impact is debated, popular movements for peace and disarmament were a pronounced feature of the political and cultural life of the interwar period. See, in addition to Lynch 1999, McKercher 1992, under Arms Control, 1918–1939.

  • Lynch, Cecelia. Beyond Appeasement: Interpreting Interwar Peace Movements in World Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.

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    Lynch seeks to defend the peace movements from the charge that they inadvertently helped bring about the Second World War by undermining the will needed within democracies to resist totalitarian aggression.

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The Second World War

The Second World War has not produced an extensive body of literature on restraints and controls during wartime, perhaps because the violence so thoroughly overwhelmed the moral, legal, and political forces that normally serve those purposes. Best 1981 is a brief general reflection on law and war in the period by one of the foremost scholars of the topic; Garnett 1993 discusses restraint with specific reference to chemical warfare and strategic bombing. Among contemporary historians, it is the bombing campaign against Germany and Japan that has begun to attract the attention of those interested in restraint in war. Parks 1990 provides legal context, while Biddle 2002 and Overy 2013 give the historical and strategic context; Goda 1966 raises questions about the adequacy of law in the era of strategic aerial weapons. Nelson and Waters 2012 gives an interdisciplinary view of the question with specific reference to Canada. Nurick and Barrett 1946 takes up the equally thorny question of the law and irregular forces of resistance.

  • Best, Geoffrey. “World War Two and the Law of War.” Review of International Studies 7.2 (1981): 67–78.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0260210500115165Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Concise reflection on the different impact that laws had upon war, and that war had upon laws, during and after the world wars.

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  • Biddle, Tami. Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914–1945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

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    Surveys the development of the strategic rationale behind the development of strategic bombing in Great Britain and the United States, and analyzes its impact. Important background for those approaching the study of the bombing from a primarily legalistic or moral position.

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  • Garnett, Richard. “Restraint in Warfare: Strategic Bombing and Chemical Warfare during the First and Second World Wars.” PhD diss, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1993.

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    Unusually for a dissertation, this is available in several libraries, including the Pentagon’s. Garnett examines the situations that lead to enemies exercising self-restraint in wartime, and finds no simple or straightforward answers; important in that it views the law as only one possible means of restraint among others, such as deterrence.

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  • Goda, Paul. “The Protection of Civilians from Bombardment by Aircraft: The Ineffectiveness of the International Laws of War.” Military Law Review 33 (1966): 93–113.

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    Written when the memory of the Second World War was still relatively fresh and the threat of nuclear annihilation part and parcel of daily life, Goda’s article suggests that laws may be an inadequate tool for restraining the fearsome destructive powers of the modern world.

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  • Nelson, Robert, and Christopher Waters. “The Allied Bombing of German Cities during the Second World War from a Canadian Perspective.” Journal of the History of International Law 14 (2012): 87–122.

    DOI: 10.1163/138819912X13333544461317Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Written by a legal scholar and a historian, this article, which deals in part with the lack of legal discussion of aerial bombardment of civilians, reveals the rich intellectual dividends that can result from the collaboration between the two disciplines.

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  • Nurick, Lester, and Roger W. Barrett. “Questions of Guerrilla Forces under the Laws of War.” American Journal of International Law 40.3 (1946): 563–583.

    DOI: 10.2307/2193930Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Prior to the Second World War, the rules regarding how civilians should behave under occupation had been central to the laws of land warfare. Contemporaries realized, however, that these rules had been subjected to unimaginable tests by the appalling crimes of the Nazis. The legal and moral debate about civilian resistance to military occupation would play an important role in reshaping international law after the war.

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  • Overy, R. J. The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War over Europe, 1940–1945. New York: Penguin, 2013.

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    The most thorough, balanced, and up-to-date survey of the strategic air campaigns of the Second World War.

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  • Parks, W. “Air War and the Law of War.” Air Force Law Review 32.1 (1990): 1–225.

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    Important survey of the legal aspects and issues related to strategic bombing.

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War and Law after 1945

The widespread devastation and death of the Second World War, along with the sheer viciousness of the Nazi regime, led, as it had after the First World War, to a desire to establish new institutions that would prevent such horrors from ever happening again. Much more so than in the post-1918 era, however, this desire led to more genuine international cooperation as well as a fundamental re-evaluation of when and how laws and other restraints on violence should be applied, and on whom they should be binding. Best 1994 is particularly good on the legal history of the period immediately after the wars; Solis 2016 brings the discussion up to the present day. Parks 1990 and Goda 1966 (under The Second World War), extend the discussion of strategic bombing and the law into the postwar period.

  • Best, Geoffrey. War and Law since 1945. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994.

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    Survey of how the laws of war developed after 1945; also provides a detailed discussion of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols.

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  • Solis, Gary D. The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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    Brings the discussion up to the present day; includes analysis of the law as it relates to assassinations, cyber warfare, and drone strikes.

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War Crimes Trials

One of the most significant legal and political events of the immediate postwar period was the convening of trials to punish those deemed to have violated the laws of war. The trials, particularly the trial of senior Nazi figures held at Nuremberg in 1945–1946, set important legal precedents and are frequently viewed as a model of how the society of states can deal with transgressions of international law. The historian, however, should be more wary of attempts to transcend the unique historical circumstances in which the trials were held in order to posit them as a universal model. Hankel 2014 provides a prehistory of sorts in a book on war crimes trials held in Germany after the First World War. Marrus 1997 is a good introduction to the Nuremberg Trials, while a firsthand account is provided by Taylor 2013. Piccigallo 1979 deals with the less well-known trials held in Japan; Bass 2000 deals with numerous trials, not only those connected with the Second World War.

  • Bass, Gary Jonathan. Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. Princeton Studies in International History and Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    A corrective to overly optimistic proclamations about the enduring significance of Nuremberg. Bass analyzes a number of war crimes trials and illustrates that they are complex and difficult affairs, and by no means always successful.

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  • Hankel, Gerd. The Leipzig Trials: German War Crimes and Their Legal Consequences after World War I. Translated by Belinda Cooper. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Republic of Letters, 2014.

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    One of the legal innovations of the post–World War I period was the series of trials held in Germany, under allied pressure, of supposed war criminals; Hankel, a lawyer, sees the legacy of these ineffective and half-hearted efforts as corrosive.

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  • Marrus, Michael Robert. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, 1945–46: A Documentary History. The Bedford Series in History and Culture. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

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    The best starting point for any historical research on the Nuremberg trials. The complicated legal issues are explained clearly and within their proper historical context. The book also contains a rich selection of primary sources. Will be particularly useful for those teaching advanced undergraduate courses on the trials.

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  • Piccigallo, Philip R. The Japanese on Trial: Allied War Crimes Operations in the East, 1945–1951. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979.

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    The trials held in Japan frequently receive less attention from legal scholars and historians like. This book provides an important remedy; it has the additional virtue of covering the trials held outside the capital of Tokyo.

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  • Taylor, Telford. The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir. New York: Skyhorse, 2013.

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    Memoir by a high-level participant in both the 1945–1946 trial of high-profile Nazis and the lesser-known trials held afterward.

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The United Nations

The single most visible result of the attempt to fashion a new world order out of the wreckage of the Second World War, the United Nations was the object of enormous hopes in the immediate postwar years. The object of much political debate in the present day, the United Nations still attracts hopeful admirers, but it is also the subject of severe criticism. Regardless of one’s own view, the nature and workings of the UN are best understood within the historical context within which it was forged. Hilderbrand 1990 gives an account of its creation, while Kennedy 2006 is the best general history. Mazower 2009 offers a contrarian take on the reasons for the UN’s establishment. White 1997 analyzes the UN’s peacekeeping machinery, and Power 2002, while not specifically about the United Nations, discusses the distressingly persistent phenomenon of genocide.

  • Hilderbrand, Robert C. Dumbarton Oaks: The Origins of the United Nations and the Search for Postwar Security. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

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    Deeply researched account of the meeting that led to the creation of the United Nations. Hildebrand explores both the hopes that attended the conference and the welter of problems and issues that the delegates faced in finding a mutually agreeable set of principles on which to build the postwar order.

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  • Kennedy, Paul M. The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations. New York: Random House, 2006.

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    The single most thorough survey of the history of the United Nations.

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  • Mazower, Mark. No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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    While most histories of the UN, even those that are critical of its failures, cast the motives that led to its creation as inherently noble, Mazower takes a provocative contrarian view, suggesting that the desire to preserve European empires after World War II was an important element in its establishment.

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  • Power, Samantha. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

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    Though the focus of Power’s book is the United States rather than the United Nations, genocide is one of the most persistent, enduring, and significant problems that that body has had to face since the end of the Second World War, and one it has manifestly failed to prevent. Power’s brutal survey of 20th-century mass exterminations will be a helpful aid to the researcher; her diagnosis of how and why these occurred, and what lessons that might hold for the present day, may not convince.

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  • White, Nigel. Keeping the Peace: The United Nations and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security. 2d ed. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1997.

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    Study of the internal political, legal, and institutional machinery that is supposed to equip the United Nations with the ability to keep the peace; includes case studies of peacekeeping operations.

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The Nuclear Age

One of the greatest issues facing the institutions and rules that were intended to limit war after 1945 was the creation and spread of nuclear weapons. A variety of methods, from deterrence through mutually assured destruction (MAD) to international arms limitations agreements, were introduced in an attempt to preserve the world from annihilation by nuclear exchange. Freedman 2003, Kaplan 1991, and Sims 1990 are political and intellectual histories of nuclear strategy. Weber 1991 seeks to explain the varying results of US-Soviet arms control efforts.

  • Freedman, Lawrence. The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. 3d ed. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230379435Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    General overview of the development of nuclear strategy.

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  • Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin 2005.

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    Survey of the political history of the Cold War by one of the foremost historians of the period. Accessible, well written introduction, suitable for undergraduate students.

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  • Kaplan, Fred M. The Wizards of Armageddon. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

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    Account of the researchers who informed American policy and strategic thought on the use of nuclear weapons; aimed at a broad audience.

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  • Sims, Jennifer E. Icarus Restrained: An Intellectual History of Nuclear Arms Control, 1945–1960. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1990.

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    Account of early attempts by scientists and other intellectuals to think through the kinds of restraints that could possibly be effective in a nuclear-armed world.

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  • Weber, Steve. Cooperation and Discord in US-Soviet Arms Control. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

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    Authored by a political scientist, this book seeks to generate a unifying model that explains the vicissitudes of US-Soviet arms control efforts.

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