1st Edition

The Foundations of Modern Arms Control An International History, 1815-1968

By Robert M. Blum Copyright 2024

    This book is an international history of the foundation of modern arms control, highlighting the fact that the instrument is varied, resilient, successful, and enduring.

    The narrative begins after the Napoleonic wars when newly arisen peace movements focused on arbitration as a path to “ending the war system.” It moves on to the international community’s embrace of “total and complete disarmament” and then to its acceptance of more limited measures by 1968, including the agreements that remain in force today. The book connects the past to the present of multiple negotiations, successful and failed, and underlines how the peace movement increasingly influenced the national policy of the major Western powers, especially the United States. It also highlights the increasing diversification of arms control players, including women and people of color as well as the countries they represented. Based on original research in multinational records and the latest scholarship, the book illustrates the reasons multilateral arms control remains a key instrument of international relations. The chapters are organized both chronologically and thematically, with the result that they cover different amounts of time in order to encompass a given issue and to capture the development of particular threads. The main narrative evolves into a decadeslong quest for a global treaty on “general and complete disarmament,” which otherwise paces the book and shapes its chapters.

    This book will be of much interest to students of arms control, global governance, peace studies, and International Relations.


    1. Stopping the War System,” 1815-1898

    2. Anticipating Arms Control, 1899-1914

    3. Versailles, a League, and Forced Arms Control, 1914-1919

    4. Arms Limitation at Sea, 1920-1922

    5. Mending the Washington System, 1924-1930

    6. The League and World Disarmament, 1920-1934

    7. Nonproliferation Out of Africa, 1890-1935

    8. Arms Control in a Shattering World, 1934-1939

    9. Old Concepts Adapted to an Atomic World, 1941-1952

    10. Verification Fraud and Success, 1953-1957

    11. Grand Arms Control as Farce, 1953-1958

    12. IAEA Slips onto the World Stage, 1953-1957

    13. Halting Steps Toward Nuclear Arms Control, 1958-1960

    14. Partial Test Ban and Disarmament Theater, 1961-1963

    15. Banning WMD in Three Domains, 1958-1967

    16. Gaining the NPT’s Core, 1958-1968

    17. Adding “Balance” to the NPT, 1964-1968

    18. Arms Control’s Foundation and Evolution


    Robert M. Blum is an independent scholar. He has a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, is a former analyst and operations officer at the Central Intelligence Agency, and served as a staff officer at the Department of State's Office of the Secretary.

    'This book covers a century and a half of efforts to control war, limit belligerents, and reduce armaments. Its theme is that arms control remains a vital instrument in international relations despite current headlines, an approach that is far from dead. ...The book covers myriad topics, including the history of early efforts at disarmament, arms limitation, and arms control; a review of arms control's accomplishments and why that was so important in the Cold War; and how we might recreate arms control's success in today's more dangerous world. It focuses on the lower and middle rungs of the conflict spectrum and the effort to minimize conflict by controlling weaponry, rather than the broader, more modern aspirations of creating strategic stability and preventing nuclear war. This gives the book particular salience in providing proven approaches to dealing with the growing number of conventional conflicts around the world today.'

    Jeff LarsenUS Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA