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An Empire of Sanctions: a new Syllabus on a tool of Oppression

Thu April 22, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

Thursday April 22nd

@ 7pm – 8pm


Sanctions are now the preferred economic weapon that the United States uses to pressure, discipline and coerce enemies and even allies. Sanctions restrict targeted states from importing, exporting and receiving investments; they prohibit US corporations and banks from dealing with those countries, and they limit the economic activities of individuals in sanctioned countries.

Historians for Peace and Democracy have compiled a syllabus on economic sanctions for educators and activists alike. The syllabus covers the history of sanctions, their forms, legality, and effectiveness, and their current deployment, as well as blowback from and resistance to them. This webinar is the launch of the syllabus. Join us on Thursday as we examine the use and effects of the economic sanctions. Click here for details of the new syllabus.

This webinar is the launch of the syllabus. Join us on April 22nd as we examine the use and effects of the economic sanctions. Click here for details of the new syllabus.


We’ll hear a message from Congressman Andy Levin of Michigan, a leader on the issue of economic sanctions. Last month, Congressman Levin reintroduced the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act (H.R. 1504) with Senator Ed Markey. This legislation will modify sanctions implementation at the Treasury Department, the State Department, and the United Nation’s North Korea sanctions committee to ensure that assistance can reach those in need. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgency of addressing sanctions, a barrier for humanitarian items getting into North Korea.

We’ll be joined by Professor Nicholas Mulder, professor of history at Cornell University. His first book, The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War, is forthcoming with Yale University Press. It provides a history of the interwar origins of economic sanctions, showing how they reconfigured international affairs by enabling distant coercion against civilian societies in peacetime.


The U.S. began using sanctions widely during the Cold War and their deployment expanded greatly after its end. Sanctions have become a powerful tool in the US foreign policy arsenal, a weapon to alter the behavior of governments, bring about regime change or simply punish a state and its people. Today the US is an “empire of sanctions,” as well as an “empire of bases.” Several dozen countries are subject to US sanctions as are many individual political figures and business people and the list appears to expand daily. With growing opposition to direct US military intervention, sanctions are presented as a “more peaceful” form of coercion. Yet, they seldom change the policies of targeted countries and individuals even as they severely harm the civilian population.

This webinar is sponsored by Massachusetts Peace Action and Brooklyn for Peace.

Co-Creators of An Empire of Sanctions:

Professor Renate Bridenthal Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Professor Emerita Of History at NYU
Prasannan Parthasarathi, Professor and Chairperson of the History Department at Boston College




Thu April 22, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
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Online Event