Undefended neutrality: the culture of peace in Europe during the Great War

Країна: Іспанія

Місто: Seville

Тези до: 15.06.2014

Дати: 26.11.14 — 27.11.14

Е-мейл Оргкомітету: neutralityconference@us.es

Організатори: University of Seville


In August 1914 the European powers were drawn into a conflict that blurred frontiers all over the Old Continent and invalidated the international order under construction. Until then, the establishment of laws of war had apparently demonstrated the European nations’ commitment to the modern ideals of progress and civilization. Actually, the two Hague Conferences (1899, 1907) had traced an unsuccessful path to a system of regulative cooperation between states. However, despite the peacekeeping failure, the rhetoric of peace -actively promoted by pre-war pacifism campaigns- forced warring states to justify publicly their entry into the conflict. Therefore, from the very onset, the question of war guilt assumed special emotional importance in belligerent societies. So, the controversy around international responsibilities had a momentous impact on the contemporary perceptions of war, going far beyond the armistice.

Particularly, Germany’s role continues to be most controversial. But even so, major interpretations are still based on Fischer’s claims that Berlin’s “grasp for world power” was the main reason for the European catastrophe. Moreover, the pictures of “the Rape” of Belgian neutrality gave a depiction of the German assault on international rights and humanitarian principles. So the aggression against neutrality set one of the primary stages for discussing issues of legal liability and moral culpability, with also significant developments in the field of war propaganda. In general warfare demonstrated that categorical imperatives had little to do with international realities, because laws turned out to be relative, flexible and adaptable depending on the political, economic and geostrategic interests at stake. The illusory safety that rested upon the presumable inviolability of international laws was challenged “by the perpetration of all kind of acts in contravention of every written and unwritten law that stood in the way of belligerent targets“.

In such a view, for instance, the economics also had a deep impact on initial belligerent actions towards neutrals. German Mitteleuropa and the British blockade were two main issues in political and diplomatic correspondence between belligerent and neutral powers. The latter challenged the argument that the British went to war to safeguard the rights of neutral and small nations. So the winners’ narratives of war might be reviewed from the neutral side as well. So what did neutrality mean in a war context where “might was right“? Overall, the integrity of neutral rights depended not only on the wishes and expectations of warring states but also “on the actual means and skills to follow the behaviour expected of a neutral state”.

On these bases, the neutrality remains an understudied topic by comparison to those related to belligerent societies, which have traditionally been the focus of the international scholarship. Generally, historians of the conflict have marginalized the role of neutrals as much as the historians from neutral countries had failed to care the role of total war. Within the centennial of the First World War, the neutral question thus continues to be open to discussion. Nations and their people often viewed the conflict from different perspectives. For instance, Spanish historiography of the war has been dominated by a national perspective focusing on the collapse in the Restaurationist system between 1917 and 1923. But this primary domestic approach tends to neglect the consequences of total war within a transnational context. Actually, the place of Spanish neutrality in the general map of the conflict is worthy of further consideration, widening the scope of the research from a comparative European perspective and crossing perceptions and expectations of peace and war.

This international conference, open around neutrality in the general framework of the First World War, will discuss the significance of total war for the European learning curve as well as for collective expectations of integration in the XXth century.

We invite and welcome papers proposals on the following lines and topics:

1. Neutral experiences of war in a global world

2. The failure of Europe. A civilian war?

3. Intellectuals and cultural exchange  

4. Religious internationalism and the role of the national churches

5. Propaganda issues. Waging a war of words and images

6. Social and civic movements. The mobilization from bellow 

7. Gender History

8. History of Emotions

9. Europe and “the third option”. Law and Conflict

The meeting will include papers given by invited speakers and presentations submitted through a call for papers.

Веб-сторінка конференції: http://institucional.us.es/hcseminario/wp/?page_id=716