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Neutrality of the Netherlands in the years of World War I

UDK 9414941.7


Institute of general history of RAS


The foreign policy of the Netherlands in the years of World War I is considered. The author traces as this state managed to keep the neutral status what attitude of belligerent parties towards the neutral Netherlands was and what changes happened during this period in the Netherlands economy, political system and society. The neutral foreign policy in 1914-1918 not only promoted economic recovery of the Netherlands, but also in a certain measure saved the country from strong social shocks which were noted during the post-war period in many countries of Europe.

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At the beginning of the 20th century the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the state with the average level of development of the industry, intensive agriculture and trade which are at the high level, transport, credit banking and the service industry. At the same time, the Netherlands occupying only 0.425% of the territory of Europe was one of major colonial and trade powers of the world. The Netherlands colonial possession — in the East Indies (Indonesia) and in West Indies (6 islands of the Small Antilles archipelago and Surinam) — exceeded the mother country sizes more than by 60 times, 38 million people lived in them 1 Population of the mother country was 6.3 million people (1914). More than 70% of Netherlanders lived in gorodakh2. In the industry of the country 33.8% of the population, were engaged in agriculture — 29.6%, in trade, credit banking and transport — 18%, in other industries — 19%. On the volume of foreign trade the Netherlands came to the 5th place in the world. The Netherlands was important international distribution center of goods, the capitals and services.

Political life of the Netherlands was characterized by bitter struggle of numerous parties, mainly clerical and liberal sense. Owing to specifics of development of the country in it there were no social groups which could form base of mass parties of authoritative or sharply conservative orientation. A great influence of Protestant and Catholic clergy caused wide circulation in the Netherlands labor movement of the anarchist ideas, revisionism and reformism. Social democratic movement in the Netherlands was not as grass-roots, as in neighboring countries. The Netherlands parties of ruling coalitions, seeking to prevent strengthening of influence of the ideas of socialism, since the end of the 19th century paid a close attention to social laws and reform of suffrage.

Political struggle went between the block of clerical parties — it included Protestant anti-revolutionary party (ARP) and the Christian and Historical Union (CHU) and also the General union of Roman Catholic associations of voters — and liberals.

In June, 1913 won the block of the liberal parties and socialists parliamentary elections. Socialists (SDRP) supported the office created by the independent liberal Peter Kort van der Linden, but refused to enter it. At the same time, their continued support helped liberals to remain in power until the end of World War I.

1 Given 1911 See: Encyclopedic dictionary by brothers Granat. the 7th prod. M, [1914]. T. 24.
2 From agrarian society to the state of general welfare. Modernization of Western Europe from the 15th century to the 1980th of M., 1998. Page 209; Phisher V. Europa: economy, society and state. 1914-1980. M, 1999. Page 14.

At the beginning of the 20th century during growth of tension in Europe the Netherlands showed the aspiration to separate whenever possible from burning issues of the international relations and traditionally adhered to policy of a neutrality. Its foundation was laid in the 1st floor. XVI11 of century when the tendency to a neutrality was approved as the country conducting in the foreign policy line. It completely corresponded to the interests of the Netherlands, but in each of the historical periods was stimulated with various reasons which rooted, first of all, in economic development of Europe and the Netherlands and also in changes in the system of the international relations. The contradictory trend won only for short term and, as a rule, not at will of the Netherlands. After separation in 1830 of Belgium the Netherlands passed to position of the small European country with big colonial possession. And in carrying out policy of a neutrality they should have considered, first of all, now such factors as lack of an opportunity to have significant effect on a situation in Europe and also geographic location between sharply competing England and Germany. The Netherlands was forced to maneuvre between great powers, sometimes to play on contradictions between them. Remaining at a neutral position in the European and world politics, they thus tried to keep and strengthen the huge colonial possession.

The Netherlands, sea power of the second rank, traditionally maintained the kind relations with England. Without the union with England it hardly could maintain extensive colonial possession in Indonesia. However at the end of the 19th century a certain part of the Netherlands ruling circles connected mainly with those branches of national economy which directly depended on the German market nevertheless tried to enter the country into a waterway of foreign policy maneuvers of Germany. It was especially noticeable in 1901-1905 when in power there was a clerical office of A. Kyoyper presenting to ARP. The Netherlands nearly joined the Tripartite alliance, however these attempts of rapprochement with Germany caused rough protests not only in the Estates General (parliament), but also through the whole country.

From the beginning of World War I the Netherlands immediately (on July 30) declared the neytralitete3. This foreign policy step was supported by all political parties and in the majority the population of the country.

But in August, 1914 the Netherlands nearly shared lot of the neighboring Belgium. According to the plan Shliffena the German army in an offensive march had to proceed across the territory of the Netherlands province Limburg that would be violation of article of the 2nd Declaration on a neutrality and would cause the actual retraction of the Netherlands in voynu4. Fortunately for the Hague, plans of the German General Staff were changed.

Nevertheless, mass media of a number of the European countries, and mainly France, reported that on August 4, 1914 during a campaign to Belgium the cavalry division of the German army as if proceeded across the territory of the Netherlands near the southern border in the town Vals5.

In the notes of protest sent immediately by the governments of France, Great Britain and Belgium to Embassies of the Netherlands it was said that the fact of violation of border calls into question observance by the Netherlands of article of the 3rd Declaration on a neutrality in which it was directly specified that the troops or military personnel of belligerent parties who appeared in the territory of the Netherlands have to be & #34; are immediately disarmed and interned until the end of military действий"6.

3 Declaration neerlandaise de neutralite//Recueil de diverses communications du ministre des affaires etranqeres aux Etats-Generaux par rapport a la neutralite des Pays-Bas et au respect du droit des qens. La Haye, 1916. P. 1-4.
4 In it there was a speech about inviolability of the territory of the neutral state. / / Recueil... P. 1.
5 Ibid. P. 5.
6 Ibid. P. 1.

On the incriminated fact the command of ground and naval forces of the Netherlands made detailed investigation, and in its final document of January 12, 1915 the following was written down: & #34; Noise on the fact that on August 4-5, 1914 the German cavalry regiment allegedly proceeded across the Netherlands territory..., is deprived of any basis and for the benefit of the truth has to be categorically опровергнут"7.

Despite the stated neutrality, the Netherlands government on August 1, 1914 declared mobilization of 200 thousand people 8 Need of such army were obviously exaggerated. Besides from the first days it became clear that the army is poorly equipped, and its arms became outdated. But the government repeatedly made decisions on increase in army and improvement of its equipment, and for 4 years of war its number was brought to 450 thousand people 9 But as war lasted, and the country neutrality already everything seemed guaranteed, many found these solutions of the government unreasonable, in parliament and the press constantly increasing defense expenditure was criticized harshly.

At the very beginning of war the neutral Netherlands faced a problem of reception of the Belgian refugees. When in October, 1914 the German army began firing of Antwerp, 900 thousand refugees from Belgium within several days appeared in the Netherlands province Northern Brabant10 where food and placement was provided to them. Since 1915 the number of refugees began to be reduced and until the end of war fluctuated ranging from 50 up to 100 thousand people of 11 V the Netherlands 7 camps for accommodation of the Belgian civilian population were organized and also created special the camp for interned voyennykh12.

The attitude of belligerent parties towards the neutral Netherlands was in general ambiguous. On the one hand, neither the Entente, nor the Tripartite alliance were interested in opening of the new front and moreover — aspired as it is possible to adapt better to current situation and to take the greatest economic benefit. On the other hand, this aspiration also forced each of warring powers to call constant in question observance of a neutrality by the Netherlands.

The first Great Britain took measures for toughening of control of the Netherlands vessels. It held in the ports the Netherlands vessels for fear that a part being available onboard cargoes is intended for a transportation to Germany. London considered that the German government interested in supply of the country with food could use services of neutral Netherlands vessels (by the international rules the enemy's cargo which was by the ship going under a neutral flag was recognized as inviolable). The English government let know that any deliveries of food by the Netherlands to the opponent will be qualified as smuggling. In the law adopted already on August 20, 1914 by the British government which passed through parliament without discussion, difference between concepts & #34; абсолютной" and & #34; possible контрабанды" acted that granted the right to British to detain vessels of the neutral country, to make full examination and even & #34; арест" cargo before examination to whom and where it is sent and along what route follows. In case the English authorities found documents, cargo or the recipient's address suspicious, goods konfiskovyvalsya13.

The Netherlands trade incurred in this regard huge losses. The Hague stated that it guarantees strict observance of all rules of neutral trade, and England

7 Ibid. P. 20-21.
8 Algemene Geschiedenis der Nederlanden (further - AGN). D. 14. Haarlem, 1980. Biz. 43.
9 G.G. Bauman. The labor and socialist movement in the Netherlands (1861 — 1918). Rostov-on-Don, 1975. Page 67; AGN. Ibid. Biz. 44.
10 Ellemers J.E. Migratie van en naar Nederland in historisch perspectief: een beknopt overzicht//Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis. 1987. Aflevering 3. Blz. 328.
11 AGN. Ibid. Blz. 46-47.
12 In them there were 35 thousand Belgian soldiers, 15 thousand German deserters and insignificant number of British (Ibid.)
13 Recueil... P. 24-25.

in this case should not interfere with the Netherlands to carry out trade transits through Germany to Rhine. What concerned transportation of goods from colonies to the mother country and back, for this purpose in November l9l4 of specially created the Netherlands overseas trust company (Nederlandsche Overzeese Trust Maatschappij). Under the contract with London and Paris the Company acquired also the right of transportation of import goods, but provided that they will not be resold to Germany. However British continued to carry out thorough examination of the Netherlands merchant ships both following to the Netherlands, and left the Netherlands ports.

In the first months of war Germany tried to follow all rules in relation to vessels and land transport of the neutral Netherlands, but already by the end of l9l4 of and it considerably expanded the list of the goods getting under definition & #34; контрабанда"14.

Despite all difficulties, from the Netherlands and through the Netherlands goods practically came to all countries of Central Europe. The policy of a neutrality bore to the Netherlands economy notable fruits. Industrial production, in 1914-l9l6 the necessary raw materials continuing to receive, increased pace. Especially it concerned chemical and metal-working industry. Also agriculture which products were, perhaps, the most demanded did not lag behind in receiving profit. Revenues of shipowners exceeded all expectations.

The situation justified optimism of the Netherlands government. Various parties supported foreign policy actions of an office of liberals, and, according to the statement of the leader of social democrats P. Trulstra, "the national idea (a neutrality — a bus comment) got the best of national distinctions" 15. However eventually preservation of a neutrality of the country depended, first of all, on favor to it belligerent parties.

Gradually their pressure upon the Netherlands became more notable. The countries of the Entente controlled all Netherlands foreign trade and confiscated about a third of its merchant fleet, Germany, threatening with invasion, constantly demanded deliveries of food. The increasing export to Germany of products of the Netherlands agriculture and vegetable growing as well as & #34; утечка" the goods imported from colonies led to a constant complication of the English Netherlands relations. Besides export of agricultural products to England began to be reduced. Its indicators for l9l4-l9l6 of decreased on average by 5-8% while to Germany it increased by some types of products for 250% (potato flour), 400% (meat) and even 500% (cheese) 16. The situation became clear if to consider interest of the Netherlands in uninterrupted receiving from Germany of chemicals, soaps, dyes and, of course, coal. The Hague explained it with the English blockade and increase in risk for the Netherlands vessels to be torpedoed German underwater lodkami17. Really, London itself forbade the Netherlands vessels fishing in the English coastal waters, motivating it with what thus prevents collision of neutral vessels with mines. In practice this decision of the English side was dictated rather by the aspiration to force the Netherlands to stop sale of products of fishery of Germany.

But the danger trapped the Netherlands merchant ships in coastal waters both England, and Germany. Numerous protests of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands were caused by the fact of installation of the German mines directly in areas traditional Netherlands rybolovstva18. Documents confirm also frequent cases of destruction of the Netherlands vessels by the German submarines. In l9l5-l9l6 of this

14 Ibid. P. 54.
15 Vooqd Ch. de. Histoire des Pays-Bas. Hatier, 1992. P. 199.
16 Smit S. Nederland in de Eerste Wereldoorloq (1899-1919). Groninqen, 1972. Deel 2. Blz. 161.
17 Ibid. Blz. 160.
18 Recueil... P. 94.

the fate comprehended 6 trade parokhodov19. Many times the Netherlands vessels became subject to air attack of the German aircraft, though had onboard all necessary signs of the neutral vessel and in advance transmitted the corresponding signals. Netherlanders accused in the circumstances British who, trying to deceive the German aircraft, hoisted sometimes on the merchant ships the colors of neutral Niderlandov20.

War became ordeal and for the Netherlands colonies in Indonesia. It became more difficult to deliver goods to Europe, and the prices of colonial goods (rubber, sugar, a copra, tea) began to decrease sharply, having fallen as a result below cost. It caused restriction of production of export cultures, reduction of wages and rise in unemployment in colonies and, as a result, national performances. Attempts of the Netherlands to reorient trade on the USA and Japan did not yield fast results. Caused concerns and appeals sounding in Japan to annex actually isolated from the mother country of Indonesia. Only at the price of constant maneuvring between warring blocks the Netherlands managed to maintain the possession in Southeast Asia.

As well as other neutral countries, the Netherlands in the years of World War I faced also a number of internal problems. Since the end of 1916 the economic situation in the country began to worsen. Reduction of foreign trade, then and its actual termination as a result of the sea blockade established by Great Britain (for 1913-1917 the goods turnover of the Netherlands ports decreased by 10 times), submarine war which was waged by Germany — all this caused folding of some industries of the Netherlands production, led to rise in unemployment and inflation. After in 1915 the Entente forbade import to the Netherlands of all goods which could be re-exported to Germany, in the country interruptions in food began. On the main food cards were entered. On them gave bread, sugar, cocoa, coffee and some other goods. And after the introduction in war in April, 1917 of the United States and their accession to the Anglo-French blockade of the Netherlands the USA stopped export to the Netherlands of fuel oil, coal, grain, fodder, chemical fertilizers, fats, iron and steel. In October the American government closed the warehouses of coal for the Netherlands vessels and thus "detained" in the ports of the USA of 90 vessels of the kingdom which were there. 45 more stood on an anchor in Velikobritanii21 ports.

In 1918 there were serious conflicts between the queen Vilhelmina and the cabinet. The office supported (unlike the queen) the Minister of Foreign Affairs D. Laudon who considered that the Netherlands has to reconcile to requirements of the countries of the Entente to carry out examination of the Netherlands merchant ships and, thus, not to risk with delivery of food to the country.

In 1918 "fullness" of a food-card quickly decreased. The deficiency of products, especially in big cities, led to so-called "potato revolts" when the hungry crowd attacked benches, warehouses and barges with carat-tofelem22.

Approach of the German army on the Western front in the spring of 1918 was one of the war moments, most dangerous to the Netherlands. The threat of invasion seemed inevitable. Even the commander-in-chief of army and the fleet of the kingdom K. Sneyders said that resistance to invasion of the German army will be bessmyslennym23. Only thanks to persistent intervention of the persons which are brought closer to the German imperial house, the Netherlands managed to avoid occupation, without complications to wait for the end of war and in general, according to the Minister of Finance M. Tryoba, & #34; to consider by happiness that jumped out of the fire, without having received serious ожогов"24.

19 I bid. P. 102-103, 106-108. In total as a result of submarine war the Netherlands fleet lost 88 vessels (Voogd Ch. de. Ibid. P. 200).
20 Ibid. P. 101.
21 AGN. Ibid. Blz. 48-49.
22 G.G. Bauman. Decree. soch. Page 68.
23 AGN. Ibid. Blz. 49.
24 Ibid. Blz. 52.

The termination of military operations on all fronts of World War I did not mean on November 11, 1918 that for the Netherlands all difficulties remained behind. The Entente countries revolted with the fact that the Hague provided to the Kaiser Wilhelm II running on November 10, 1918 a shelter and allowed pass across the territory of 70 thousand receding German soldiers, did not wish to see representatives of the Netherlands at a negotiating table in Versale25. In the same time Belgium openly declared territorial claims for the province Limburg, and the Netherlands with great difficulty managed to settle during diplomatic negotiations this vopros26.

But the most important for the Netherlands there was the fact that in the years of World War I the country managed to keep, though with great difficulty, the status of the neutral power. The Netherlands was saved from the numerous victims and destructions which comprehended other countries of Europe they managed to keep also the territorial integrity. On this background neither the disorders in the armies in October, 1918 nor organized by social democrats on November 11-17 mass demonstrations in the large Netherlands cities of the country (so-called "red week") caused in the Netherlands of further social explosion and revolutionary shocks what were in the neighboring countries ruined by war. The government easily managed to take a situation under the control and to make the program of important social reforms. The neutrality in the years of war promoted accumulation in the country of sufficient funds which were allocated for their carrying out.

of the Politician of a neutrality not only saved the country from strong social on-tryaseniy27, but also bore notable fruits to the Netherlands economy. The deficiency of raw materials in domestic market caused by military operations in neighboring countries and blockade of transport ways caused partial reorganization of economy on the basis of state regulation and also its structural changes. Requirements of wartime put in the forefront industry development (with natural increase in percent of the population occupied in it). The Netherlands which is cut off from the majority of the markets was forced to develop at themselves some new industries — ferrous metallurgy in the Northern Netherlands, the electrotechnical industry, production of artificial silk, etc. From the traditional industries significantly increased indicators sudostroyeniye28. At a further intensification of agriculture the number of the population occupied in it smoothly was reduced. Favorable geographic location and a possibility of conducting neutral trade, banking operations, rendering different types of the help to the civilian population of neighboring countries, all this promoted considerable expansion in the Netherlands in 1914-1918 of the service industry in which by 1920 40.8% of the worker were engaged already on-seleniya29. In general, with a growth of the public expenditures that was caused by requirements of wartime, and continuous increase in taxes, national income of the Netherlands rose by enviable height. The gold reserves of the country for years of World War I grew by 4.5 times.

One more important proof that nonparticipation of the Netherlands in war was a good point in their stories was preservation of pre-war indicators of demographic development: low indicators of death rate (13.9 per milles) 30 at preservation of rather high level of birth rate (25.6 per milles a year, while in Germany — 16.8, in France — 11.4, in England — from 19.4 to 21.7) 31. And, in

25 Voogd Ch. de. Ibid. P. 201.
26 Vers l&apaisement hollando-belge. Paris, 1919. P. 15-20.
27 In 1916-1920 the level of the strike movement in the Netherlands was one of the lowest in Europe (V. Fischer. Decree. soch. Page 102-103).
28 In 1910-1914 construction of merchant ships was estimated in 84 thousand брутто&-регистровых tons, in 1914 — 1920 already in 131 thousand. (In the same place. Page 192).
29 In the same place. Page 140.
30 In the same place. Page 30; For years of war in the Netherlands 86 thousand people of the civilian population died, and its general losses were 93 thousand people, i.e. 1.5% of the population (In the same place. Page 20).
31 In the same place. Page 29.

difference from member countries of war, the level of birth rate did not decrease also in the first post-war years, and in 1919 the population of the Netherlands made already 6.8 million people 32

Thus, never earlier in the history of the Netherlands the neutral foreign policy corresponded to so adequately economic and social interests of the country.



Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences

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In this article the foreign policy of the Netherlands during the World War I is examined. The author follows up the way this small European state could retain its status of neutrality, attitude of the belligerent parties towards the neutral Netherlands, and the economical, political and social changes that happened in the country during the given period. G. A. Shatokhina-Mordvintseva concludes that the neutral foreign policy in 1914-1918 not only promoted the economical rise of the Netherlands, but to a certain extent protected the country from the social shocks common for most European states in postwar period.

32 In the same place. Page of l4.
James Stokes
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