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

By Dr Maartje Abbenhuis

An Age of Neutrals offers a pioneering heritage of neutrality in Europe and the broader global among the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of the 1st international warfare. The 'long' 19th century (1815-1914) was once an period of unheard of industrialization, imperialism and globalization; one that witnessed Europe's financial and political hegemony the world over. Dr Maartje Abbenhuis explores the ways that neutrality strengthened those interconnected advancements. She argues passive notion of neutrality has to date avoided historians from figuring out the excessive regard with which neutrality, as a device of international relations and statecraft and as a well-liked excellent with a number of purposes, used to be held. This compelling new historical past exposes neutrality as a colourful and crucial a part of the nineteenth-century overseas process; a strong device utilized by nice and small powers to resolve disputes, stabilize diplomacy and advertise numerous pursuits inside and outdoors the continent.

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Sample text

There were several reasons why the great powers, Great Britain in particular, valued neutrality when their neighbours and sometimes their friends and allies went to war. Most importantly, it kept them from engaging in costly and unnecessary conflicts and helped to maintain the balance of power among them. If anything, the Napoleonic Wars had shown the leaders of Europe that the outbreak of war was treacherous, costly and potentially disastrous. They also recognised that keeping wars limited affairs aided the security and well-being of all states and promoted the general peace of Europe, which was an ideal that held universal appeal.

At the systemic level, neutrality underpinned the Congress system, helped to stabilise the European balance of power and fomented an era of restraint and limited war. Through the formal adoption of neutrality, the great powers helped to avoid the spread of war and created the conditions through which they could negotiate and mediate conflicts and crises. At the level of international politics, neutrality was an oft-used, pragmatic and generally reliable foreign-policy tool used for the promotion of the national interests of great and small European states.

On the basis of this history, it is easy to depict Great Britain as the neutrals’ bogeyman, preying on rival shipping and indiscriminately pushing a ‘might makes right’ policy. 55 Importantly, through the nineteenth century and right up until the outbreak of the First World War, Britain would promote the same ends – protection of its naval supremacy and control of the world’s shipping lanes and trade – but would use different means to attain them. After 1856, in fact, neutrality was no longer the thorn others used to interfere in British imperial ambitions but rather a pragmatic tool the British themselves used to promote and protect their domination.

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