Book Review: Defending Neutrality: The Netherlands Prepares for War, 1900-1925


by Wim Klinkert

Leiden / Boston: E.J. Brill, 2013. Pp. viii, 328. Illus., maps, tables., notes, biblio., index. $162.00. ISBN: 9004227474

The Netherlands and the Great War

Prof. Klinkert (Amsterdam) opens Defending Neutrality by observing that the military history small states is largely neglected, and particularly so for times when they were not at war.  He then gives us a military history of the Netherlands in the period of the First World War. 

In his first chapter, Klinkert covers the period 1900-1914, as the Dutch worked to organize an optimal defense of their neutrality when the expected general European war erupted.  In the process he examines Dutch war plans and those of the other powers.  The Dutch were aware of the German threat under the “Schlieffen Plan,” but had also to be concerend about other potential threats, including possible French or British invasion, which influenced their planning.  When the war came, no one violated Netherlands neutrality, but that didn’t mean that the Dutch had an easy time.  With a major war raging literally at their doorstep, the Dutch had to mobilize, ultimately maintaining active and reserve forces of some 500,000 men, lest one of the belligerents attempt an invasion.  And the Dutch also had to modernize their army, look after large numbers of refugees and internees, and suffer the effects of the Allies' continental blockade, incurring great expense and disruption. 

Klinkert follows with a chapter on Dutch efforts to keep up in technology, notably artillery and chemical weapons, and one on the formation of the Dutch air force.  He then devotes a chapter to intelligence operations “in, for, and against the Netherlands.”  Klinkert’s final chapter looks at Dutch attempts to apply the lessons of the war in the immediate postwar period. 

A volume in the excellent Brill series “History of Warfare,” Defending Neutrality will prove valuable reading for anyone seriously interested in the Great War or the experiences of neutrals in wartime.





Note: Defending Neutrality is also available as an e-book,

         ISBN 978-9-0042-5250-9



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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