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Planning Armageddon

Planning Armageddon

British Economic Warfare and the First World War

Nicholas A. Lambert

ISBN 9780674061491

Publication date: 01/01/2012

Before the First World War, the British Admiralty conceived a plan to win rapid victory in the event of war with Germany-economic warfare on an unprecedented scale.This secret strategy called for the state to exploit Britain's effective monopolies in banking, communications, and shipping-the essential infrastructure underpinning global trade-to create a controlled implosion of the world economic system.

In this revisionist account, Nicholas Lambert shows in lively detail how naval planners persuaded the British political leadership that systematic disruption of the global economy could bring about German military paralysis. After the outbreak of hostilities, the government shied away from full implementation upon realizing the extent of likely collateral damage-political, social, economic, and diplomatic-to both Britain and neutral countries. Woodrow Wilson in particular bristled at British restrictions on trade. A new, less disruptive approach to economic coercion was hastily improvised. The result was the blockade, ostensibly intended to starve Germany. It proved largely ineffective because of the massive political influence of economic interests on national ambitions and the continued interdependencies of all countries upon the smooth functioning of the global trading system.

Lambert's interpretation entirely overturns the conventional understanding of British strategy in the early part of the First World War and underscores the importance in any analysis of strategic policy of understanding Clausewitz's "political conditions of war."


  • A magnificent achievement, one of the most important books in decades on the origins and conduct of the Great War. Lambert offers a complete rethinking of British strategy before and into the war. Readers will be feasting on this rich meal for years.

    —Samuel R. Williamson, Jr., University of the South, emeritus


  • 2013, Winner of the Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. Book Prize


  • Nicholas A. Lambert is Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, Whitehall, London. His first book, Sir John Fisher's Naval Revolution, won the Distinguished Book Prize from the Society for Military History.

Book Details

  • 662 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press