(image source: Brill)
The permanent or compulsory nature of Belgian neutrality, from the country’s inception (1830–1839) to the Franco-Prussian war (1870) is has generally been left to political or diplomatic historians. The guarantors of Belgian independence had made their enduring support conditional on the respect of the obligations of neutrality. Legal historians should consider that political and diplomatic exchanges were steeped in international law-discourse. In early modern doctrine, a state’s decision to remain neutral during a conflict between third states could be reversed when necessary. The permanent nature of these restrictions meant the latter had become impossible. The Belgian government pleaded for a restrictive reading of limitations to its sovereignty. Rights and obligations were presented as mutually dependent. This played out favourably during the ‘War of the Triple Alliance’ (1864–1870), exports to Brazil could go on, even if its opponent, Paraguay suffered a blockade. Franco-British pressure forced the Belgian government to downplay its ambitions in 1854, during the Crimean War. Even if arms were supplied to all parties in the conflict. When guarantors were involved in a conflict, neutrality became a nearly prohibitive burden. British sympathy for the Belgian liberal constitutional system could not override basic geopolitical interests and French pressure.Read more on the Brill website (DOI 10.1163/9789004412088_009).