University Press of Kansas Logo

Beating Plowshares into Swords

The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1606–1865

Paul A. C. Koistinen

392 pages, 6 x 9
Modern War Studies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-0791-4, $39.95

Book Cover ImageBeat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say I am strong.--Joel 3:10

Beating Plowshares into Swords inaugurates an extraordinarily ambitious effort by Paul Koistinen to compose a comprehensive and wide-ranging study on the economics of American warfare from the colonial period to the present. When completed, this multi-volume project will stand as the definitive work on a complex subject that until now has been superficially treated or completely ignored.

Koistinen focuses not upon battlefields and battles but upon the means used to make and sustain the armies and navies that have fought in such horrific arenas. Drawing upon a vast array of sources in a number of diverse fields, he analyzes how America has mobilized itself for the conduct of war. He argues that to fully understand that process we must closely examine the complex interrelations among economic, political, and military institutions within the context of relentless modernization and technological innovation.

In this first volume, Koistinen describes how an undeveloped "preindustrial" economy forced Americans to fight defensive wars of attrition like the Revolution and the War of 1812. By the time of the Mexican War, however, a gradually maturing economy allowed the United States to use a much more offensive-minded strategy to achieve its goals. The book concludes with an exhaustive examination of the Civil War, a conflict that both anticipated and differed from the total wars of the industrialized era. Koistinen demonstrates that the North relied upon its enormous economic might to overwhelm the Confederacy through a strategy of annihilation while the South bungled its own strategy of attrition by failing to mobilize effectively a much less-developed economy.

With this and subsequent volumes, Koistinen's sweeping synthesis provides a panoramic view that enlarges and in significant ways alters our vision of the turbulent relationship between war and society in America.

"There is no single-volume comprehensive history of the economic foundations of American war-making, let alone a multi-volume work on the monumental scale proposed by Koistinen. Based on his initial offering, this ambitious project seems certain to set the standard for all future work on this subject."--Russell F. Weigley, author of The American Way of War

"Koistinen's ambitious, daring, and provocative work is unique to the literature and advances our understanding of the relationship between war, the military, and society to a new level. Historians for years to come will be grateful for his work."--Richard H. Kohn, author of Eagle and Sword: The Beginnings of the Military Establishment in America

"Koistinen blends incisive description and perceptive analysis in the first of a projected five-volume study that will likely become a classic."--Edward M. Coffman, author of The War to End All Wars

"Koistinen has succeeded admirably in a work that will provoke a great deal of discussion."--Mark Lender, coauthor of A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763–1789

"This volume lays the foundation for what promises to be a major contribution to military scholarship."--Journal of Military History

"Sure to become a classic."--Parameters

PAUL A. C. KOISTINEN is professor of history at California State University–Northridge. His other books include Mobilizing for Modern War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1865–1919; Planning War, Pursuing Peace: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1920-1939; and The Military–Industrial Complex.

Facebook button