Political History

An Age of Neutrals: Great Power Politics, 1815-1914 by Dr Maartje Abbenhuis

By Dr Maartje Abbenhuis

An Age of Neutrals offers a pioneering background of neutrality in Europe and the broader global among the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of the 1st global battle. The 'long' 19th century (1815-1914) used to be an period of remarkable industrialization, imperialism and globalization; one that witnessed Europe's financial and political hegemony the world over. Dr Maartje Abbenhuis explores the ways that neutrality bolstered those interconnected advancements. She argues passive notion of neutrality has to this point avoided historians from knowing the excessive regard with which neutrality, as a device of international relations and statecraft and as a well-liked excellent with various functions, used to be held. This compelling new background exposes neutrality as a colourful and crucial a part of the nineteenth-century overseas method; a strong device utilized by nice and small powers to unravel disputes, stabilize diplomacy and advertise quite a few pursuits inside of and outdoors the continent.

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Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 158–209. M. Lyons, Post-revolutionary Europe 1815–1856. Houndsmills, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006, esp. pp. 1–21. Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 579–80, 586–93. 4 There is, therefore, much to be said for Schroeder’s argument that the Congress of Vienna was one of the most successful peace settlements of all time. For while the European states initiated and were involved in numerous wars and conflicts around the globe between 1815 and 1914, at no stage did any of these conflagrations turn into a Europe-wide affair.

18 However, these years of war also witnessed a change in the understanding of state behaviour. Hugo Grotius was one of the first legal theoreticians to allow for neutrality, but only when there was a ‘just’ cause on both belligerent sides. 20 These principles formed the foundation of international legal expectations relating to neutral conduct in time of war from this point on, even if in practice the principles were infrequently enacted or exacted. 21 As a result, neutrality was freed from its moral and religious shackles and became a serious option to be pursued in time of war.

It is also an extraordinarily fragile and controversial foreign policy because it comes into play in time of war. Obviously, a neutral state could only survive a war as a neutral when the belligerents respected its non-belligerency. As the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus was said to have uttered about the matter during the Thirty Years War (1618–48): ‘But what is neutrality? I don’t understand it. ’1 For the king, neutrality did not exist because he chose for it to have no meaning – either his neighbours were with him or they were against him, in which case they became his enemies.

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