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Caught in the Middle

Caught in the Middle: Neutrals, Neutrality and the First World War

Johan den Hertog
Samuël Kruizinga
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  • Book Info
    Caught in the Middle
    Book Description:

    During World War I, aggressive countries infringed on the rights and privileges of neutral nations such as the Netherlands and Switzerland as they had been defined in prior international agreements. The essays in this critical collection provide comparisons of the history of neutrality in several countries involved in World War I and analyze the concept of neutrality from multiple perspectives: political, economic, cultural, and legal.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1471-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Johan den Hertog and Samuël Kruizinga

    In 1953, Norwegian historian Nils Ørvik, cited above, published a landmark thesis on the history of neutrality through two World Wars and the beginning of the Cold War. He identified the first of these three conflicts as the ‘seminal catastrophe’ for neutrality. The First World War proved that neutrality, both as a legal concept and as foreign policy tool, had no merit; the two later wars, which were equally ‘total’ in their aims, merely provided additional evidence for his central thesis. Ørvik takes note of the fact that the concept of neutrality thus underwent a dramatic ‘decline’ from the lofty...

  2. 2 Dutch Neutrality and the Value of Legal Argumentation
    (pp. 15-34)
    Johan den Hertog

    Soon after the outbreak of the Great War, neutral countries experienced the sudden collapse of the rights and duties which had, before the horrors of war shattered peacetime status quo, been accorded them. In the last few pre-war years, these rights and duties had been carefully codified into law. Especially during the Hague Peace Conference of 1907 and the Declaration of London on maritime rights of 1909, the international community had worked hard to codify the rights and duties of neutrals.¹ Because it was deemed of paramount importance by all participating nations, this development in international law aroused a great...

  3. 3 ‘Upon the Neutral Rests the Trusteeship of International Law’ Legal advisers and American unneutrality
    (pp. 35-52)
    Benjamin Coates

    In 1914, many considered the United States to be the world’s leading neutral nation.¹ Neutrality and nonentanglement in European affairs formed a tradition virtually as old as the republic itself. When war broke out in Europe, the country seemed well positioned to maintain this stance. The commitment to neutrality was popular. The president, Woodrow Wilson, was officially devoted to it. Moreover, picking a side in the war was also fraught with domestic political danger: it was hard to predict how the large number of recent immigrants of diverse ethnicities, who maintained close ties with their homelands, would react in such...

  4. 4 Spanish Neutrality During the First World War
    (pp. 53-66)
    Javier Ponce

    Spain’s international policy during the First World War was primarily characterised by its restricted room for manoeuvring. This had both foreign and domestic reasons, both of which can be traced back to the position the country found itself in after the disastrous 1898 Spanish-American War, which had definitely ended Spain’s Great Power ambitions. Internal strife followed, ensuring the country was unsuccessful in repairing the economic, military and naval deficiencies that had become so apparent during the war with the United States. This caused the country to sign defensive treaties with both Britain and France guaranteeing its remaining overseas possessions, which,...

  5. 5 Britain’s Global War and Argentine Neutrality
    (pp. 67-84)
    Philip Dehne

    Historians who study neutrality during the First World War have long focused on European neutrals and the United States. However, recent writings attempting to create a history of globalization, one that traces the transnational connections critical to historical change over the past few centuries, suggest that it would be worthwhile to attempt to also globalize our history of a war whose name in English, after all, indicates a ‘world’ focus.¹

    The World War affected the South American republics in a variety of ways, changing their foreign trade and investment patterns and calling upon the distant loyalties of populations largely comprised...

  6. 6 not Neutrality The Dutch government, the Netherlands Oversea Trust Company and the Entente blockade of Germany, 1914-1918
    (pp. 85-104)
    Samuël Kruizinga

    From the second half of the nineteenth century, Dutch international politics and economics moved in opposing directions. Politically, the Netherlands pursued a course of strict neutrality, its leaders deciding that this was the only politically realistic option open to them which would safeguard both their European homeland and their vast Asian colonial possessions from the jealous eyes of the surrounding Great Powers. Dutch foreign policy before the First World War therefore consisted, in the words of one contemporary observer, of being decent neighbours to all of its neighbours, but good friends with none of them.¹ Dutch attempts to stay aloof...

  7. 7 From Parasite to Angel Narratives of neutrality in the Swedish popular press during the First World War
    (pp. 105-120)
    Lina Sturfelt

    In the highly emotional and politically polarized climate of the First World War, where the war was seen as an absolute, righteous fight between Good and Evil, neutrality became increasingly inconceivable and suspicious. The very possibility of staying neutral was in fact questioned. Both belligerent parties accused the neutrals of secretly collaborating with the enemy, and neutral actors like the Red Cross and the Vatican were said to have hidden, partial agendas.² In cultural terms, neutrality was also dubious, connoting lack of character, cultural castration and national sterility. It was deemed unmanly, a sign of national weakness and decay, a...

  8. 8 Colour-blind or Clear-sighted Neutrality? Georg Brandes and the First World War
    (pp. 121-138)
    Bjarne S. Bendtsen

    During the First World War the great Danish critic and scholar Georg Brandes (1842-1927) took part in a host of debates, at home in Denmark as well as abroad, about the war and neutrality. From his unshakable neutral, anti-war point of view, he criticised the belligerents for conducting the war on false premises, pretending to fight for ideals like civilisation and culture, when what was at stake was really commercial and imperialistic interests. This neutral anti-war position was not an easy one to hold. When he criticised one of the belligerent parties, he was immediately blamed for supporting the other;...

  9. 9 The Hottest Places in Hell? Finnish and Nordic neutrality from the perspective of French foreign policy, 1900-1940
    (pp. 139-154)
    Louis Clerc

    What better introduction could we find to our subject than this (mis)quote of Dante Alighieri by us President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, pronounced in 1963 in relation to the creation of the German Peace Corps? Indeed, from the point of view of a great power engaged in the Cold War, the neutrality of smaller states can easily appear to be a dangerous liability, a crack in the armour to be used by the enemy. The moral tinge of Kennedy’s remark is also interesting: when good and evil, democracy and authoritarianism fight, how can one remain neutral?

    This opens the debate of...

  10. 10 The Other End of Neutrality The First World War, the League of Nations, and Danish neutrality
    (pp. 155-172)
    Karen Gram-Skjoldager

    In his seminal 1953 workThe Decline of Neutrality, 1914-1941, the Norwegian historian Nils Ørvik noted about the First World War that ‘… neutrality became a luxury that could no longer be afforded. Therefore, it had to disappear.’² This crucial weakening of neutrality, in Ørvik’s view, formed part of a general and basically linear development in the nineteenth and twentieth century, where isolationist neutrality disintegrated and was succeeded by a system of international military alliances and collective security.

    There is much truth to Ørvik’s interpretation. The concept of neutrality was undoubtedly critically weakened by the developments of the First World...