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Masterclass – Dr. Maartje Abbenhuis (University of Auckland)

An age of neutrals? Rethinking the international history of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, 1815 – 1914

Date: 23 November 2015
Time: 10:30-16:00
Venue: University of Amsterdam, PCH 625 (Spuistraat 134)
Credits: 1 ECTS
Open to: RMa students and PhD candidates
Fee (non-members): € 50,00
Coordinated by: Michael Wintle (UvA)
Registration –Due to circumstances this event has been canceled.

20 November 2015: Royal Netherlands Historical Society (KNHG) 2015 Annual Conference
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Historians often write the international history of the ‘long’ nineteenth century in relationship to the two global wars that bookended the hundred-year span between the Congress of Vienna (1814 – 1815) and the July crisis of 1914. They highlight the peculiar nature of the ‘concert system’ established by the conservative governments gathered at Vienna and argue about when and how to account for its demise. They also tend to focus on the collapse of the stability of the great power balance of power (or ‘political equilibrium’ as Paul Schroeder would have it) in the years 1871 – 1914, usually with an eye to explaining the origins of the First World War.

This master class asks questions of the nature and dynamics of the international system and international affairs more generally in the ‘long’ nineteenth century and foregrounds the role and importance of neutrality in them. It suggests that neutrality imbued many key nineteenth-century developments from diplomacy, international trade, imperialism, the conduct and scope of great power warfare to the rise in relevance of international law and shaped many Europeans’ understandings of their international and national identities.


Maartje Abbenhuis, Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, is a historian of neutrality and internationalism, particularly in Europe in the period 1815 – 1919. She has published a book on the maintenance of neutrality by the Netherlands in the First World War, entitled The Art of Staying Neutral. The Netherlands in the First World War, 1914 – 1918 (Amsterdam University Press, 2006). Her latest book, An Age of Neutrals. Great Power Politics 1815 – 1914 was released by Cambridge University Press in 2014. At present she is writing a global history of the two Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, research for which she was awarded a prestigious Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant. She has also worked on the history of borderlandsand popular representations of Nazism and war.


The master class will consist of an introduction to the theme by Maartje Abbenhuis, followed by three sessions of 45 minutes, in which the articles/book chapters, the participants prepared questions and their essays will be presented (ca. 5 minutes per presentation) and discussed, after which a plenary discussion on the theme can take place.

The master class will be organized as an interactive research class, in which it will become clear how and why neutrality matters to our understandings of the nineteenth-century European world.

Preparation and readings:

Participants of this master class (PhD and Research Master students) can receive 1 ECTS for their active participation, which generally includes the lecture and critical assessment of 1 to 3 articles/book chapter (including the preparation of questions or arguments concerning the texts), and writing a short essay (ca. 1500 words) on a related topic, which has to be presented in a short presentation (ca. 5 minutes). All in all, preparation for the masterclass should constitute approximately 28 hours.



  • Maartje Abbenhuis, ‘A most useful tool for diplomacy and statecraft: Neutrality and Europe in the ‘long’ nineteenth century, 1815 – 1914’ International History Review. 35, 1, 2013, pp. 1 – 22
  • Elizabeth Chadwick, ‘Neutrality’s last gasp? The Balkan Wars of 1912 – 1913’ in Elizabeth Chadwick, Traditional neutrality revisited. Law, theory and case studies. The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2002, pp. 59 – 88
  • John Coogan, ‘Maritime rights and the test of war 1899 – 1904’ in John Coogan, The end of neutrality. The United States, Britain and maritime rights 1899 – 1915. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1981, pp. 30 – 54

Participants are expected to prepare a question concerning each of these required readings, to be discussed during the master class, as well as to prepare an assignment based on these readings.


  • Maartje Abbenhuis, An age of neutrals. Great power politics 1815 – 1914. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014
  • Olive Anderson, A liberal state at war. English politics and economics during the Crimean War. New York, St Martin’s Press, 1963
  • Geoffrey Best, Humanity in warfare. The modern history of the international law of armed conflict. London, Methuen, 1983
  • H. Hinsley, Power and the pursuit of peace. Theory and practice in the history of relations between states. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1963
  • Jan Martin Lemnitzer, Power, law and the end of privateering. New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014
  • William Mulligan, Origins of the First World War. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010
  • Stephen Neff, The rights and duties of neutrals. A general history. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000
  • Paul Schroeder, ‘The lost intermediaries. The impact of 1870 on the international system’ International History Review. 6, 1, 1984, pp. 1 – 27
  • Daniel Thomas, The guarantee of Belgian independence and neutrality in European diplomacy 1830s – 1930s. Kingston, D. H. Thomas, 1983


Participants are expected to write a short essay (max. 1500 words) on a subject related to the theme of neutrality in the ‘long’ nineteenth century based on one or all of the required readings. Any aspect of the role played by neutrality in the international system or within international history may be investigated.

It is required that the essay is sent to Michael Wintle ( at least five days before the master class (deadline: 18 November 2015).

After successfully completing all these requirements for this master class, you can obtain a certificate of the credits upon request ( With this certificate you can validate the credits at your own local Graduate School.