NEUTRALS AND NEUTRALITY IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD DURING
THE LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY (1700-1820). A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
With the growth in international commerce, the exacerbation of colonial rivalries and the intensification of conflict, issues related to neutrality in the Atlantic world gained new importance during the eighteenth century. When war started, neutral vessels took over shipping and trade in order to take advantage of circumstances which could be both highly profitable and perilous. Whether they belonged to an established power in the Americas or one without any colonies, whether they offered only cover under their flags or an actual transport service, or whether their territories were used as a sheltered haven for trade between belligerents, neutrals were the essential operators of wartime trade in the Atlantic world.
The analysis of neutrality sheds light on the tensions between the dynamics of war and those of trade, both of which reveal the intensity of relations within the Atlantic World. For this reason, neutrality must be studied as a multifaceted reality within a space that was marked by the fluidity of movement and exchange. Such a study requires that we move beyond national frameworks and foster an approach interested in interconnections, in order to rethink questions related to neutrality and the roles of neutrals over the long eighteenth century, from the Spanish War of Succession to the Latin American independence movements. This approach, which will help to lead a comprehensive study of regions and subjects of Atlantic history, would enable us to bring together the study of the Americas (south, north, and Caribbean) as well as Europe. Moreover, Atlantic neutrality is an arena within which relationships among Europeans, among Americans, and also between Europeans and Americans were created. Thus, neutrality can be understood as a point of entry into broader reflection on the formation of an economic, diplomatic, and political Euro-American space.
THE POLARIZATION OF THE ATLANTIC WORLD IN WARTIME
War led to a reconfiguration of the flow and the networks of ordinary trade when direct routes between colonies and the home countries became too risky. Travelling under neutral flags thus seemed to be the most effective way to guarantee travel between the ports of countries at war in the Americas and Europe. The speed with which new routes were put in place shows that, evidently, they existed at least in part before war broke out. Here, we must examine the relationship between the contraband trade in peacetime and the circulation of neutrals in wartime. This examination must be carried out by comparing various levels of analysis, from the macro to the micro, from transatlantic shipping down to small-scale travel along the American and Caribbean coasts. Taking into account illicit networks will enable us to understand the geography of Atlantic neutrality.We must look for the triggers that favoured neutrality within local dynamics, by investigating what made a particular neutral space attractive and enabled it, suddenly, to draw part of the Atlantic trade. A certain number of factors seem to have played a decisive role in the attractiveness of certain neutral places, such as having a free port or the availability of large human networks necessary for large-scale exchange. From commerce that was merely tolerated because of circumstances to the pursuit of ordinary illicit trade or wartime contraband, the business of neutrals and trade by neutrals covers a broad range of activities that must be taken into account.
THE BENEFITS OF NEUTRALITY
The development of neutral shipping may in fact cover three kinds of activities: simple camouflage, transporting belligerents’ goods, and actual neutral merchants. While measuring profits is an essential yardstick, it cannot alone measure the benefits of neutrality. At the scale of the Americas, the study of trade under the cover of neutrality can contribute to our understanding of the development of North-South continental relations. In addition, the role that neutral territories played as platforms show that periods of neutrality are times when Transamerican trade speeds up and becomes more integrated. These periods are also ones of opening up and intensifying the interconnections between the Atlantic World and its environment and thus contributed to the ‘Atlantisation’ of the world.
THE POLITICAL IMPACT OF NEUTRALITY
The various issues related to neutrality have only rarely been approached from a political perspective. The obligations of war could lead to the suspension of measures that privileged relationships between colonies and the home country, with the result that foreigners were not simply tolerated in their ports, but even encouraged to come. The decision to open a colony’s ports should not only be seen within the context of war, but situated within the context of a broader reflection about the liberalisation of colonial commerce and of criticism of the trade monopoly enjoyed by the home country. Moreover, the involvement of neutrals in colonial trade during wartime raises the question of their impartiality. Adopting the principle of war against enemy trade ipso facto indicts neutral shipping when it serves to transport enemy goods. The freedom of non-belligerents’ trade and shipping became a subject of conflict between States, which led to periods of strained relations and sometimes even confrontation. The rights of neutral ships that belligerents recognized, the pressure of privateering, and the profits from trade, particularly war contraband, are all elements that enable us to understand the variety of forms of neutral traffic during the conflicts of the eighteenth century.
The goal of this volume is to bring together papers that analyze case studies in order to foster reflection on broader questions about the complexity of Atlantic trade. This kind of dialogue, between authors, between subjects, and between periods treated will enable us to determine the major transformations in Atlantic neutrality over the eighteenth century.
French version available on “http://www.crhia.fr/” “actualités”
Please submit proposals in French or in English (300-500 words) and a CV before March 1, 2013 to firstname.lastname@example.org
The authors whose submissions have been accepted must send a preliminary abridged draft of their text (2000-3000 words) before September 30, 2013 in order to help ensure coherence of the volume between the various contributions. Final versions of chapters (8000-9000 words) are due no later than May 1, 2014.
Associate Professor and HDR (Accredited Research Director)
Centre de Recherche en Histoire Internationale et Atlantique
Université de Nantes
Institut Universitaire de France
Associate Professor and HDR (Accredited Research Director)
Centre de Recherche en Histoire Internationale et Atlantique, Université de Nantes
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