Economic sanctions are implemented unilaterally by individual states or collectively by various countries, sometimes with the nominal backing of the United Nations. As a mechanism for striking at the heart of civilian populations, their effect is always devastating. This is the first detailed overview of current economic sanctions set in an historical and global context. Focusing on moral and legal considerations, Geoff Simons traces the history of international sanctions from ancient to modern times, through the League of Nations and the UN era, examining key examples such as the Berlin Blockade, South Africa under apartheid, and Rhodesia after the unilateral declaration of independence. Assessing the unique role of the United States, Simons describes a range of cases including Cuba, Vietnam, Libya and Iran, with particular attention to the genocidal impact of sanctions on the people of Iraq, involving starvation and soaring rates of disease. Within this context Simons challenges official Western accounts to provide an original and shaming critique of US-backed economic sanctions as a direct violation of UN conventions and declarations.