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Small Powers in the Age of Total War, 1900-1940, by Herman Amersfoort & Wim Klinkert, editors

Leiden/Boston: E. J. BRill, 2011. Pp. xii, 372. Notes, index. $176.00. ISBN: 9004203214.

By the early Twentieth Century the trend among Western countries to codify the law of war, protect the rights of neutrals, and promote a more peaceful world seemed to have made great progress.  This belief was put to the test with the outbreak of the World War of 1914-1918, which, following additional rounds of international conferences and agreements, was followed little more than twenty years later by a Second World War that almost destroyed any notion of international order.  Small Powers in the Age of Total War, a volume in Brill’s series “History of Warfare,”examines the experience of neutrals in the era of the world wars.

The fourteen essays collected by editors Amersfoort and Klinkert, both Dutch university professors who also teach military history at the Netherlands Defence Academy, emerged from a 2008 conference held in the Netherlands on the problems of the neutral northern and central European powers in the period of the world wars, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland .  Opening essays address the evolution of the idea of “neutrality”, with a look at the notable role of the U. S. in the development of the concept in international law, and at “European Hopes for Neutrality Before 1914”. 

Individual essays then examine the Swiss, Norwegian, and Dutch cases during World War I, and German plans for war with Denmark and Switzerland.  For the interwar period, there is an essay on German defense in the 1920s, which is followed by essays on the evolution of Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian, and Swiss policies and defense measures in the hope of maintaining neutrality through to the eve of World War II, including questions of air defense, rearmament, and fortification, plus an essay on the problem of the Netherlands Indies. 

Small Powers in the Age of Total War, 1900-1940 is an important work serious students of war and neutrality.

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Reviewer: A. A Nofi, Review Editor   


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