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Links relating to Belgian neutrality
 

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Editor's Note:  I have assembled here the most useful Neutrality links that I have found on the Internet.  However, I must admit my disappointment in the quality of material that I came across.  I have omitted from  this page what I considered to be redundant links and have tried to give you some of the more interesting or nuanced sites that I found.  If you happen to find other useful links to sites relating to Belgian neutrality, please e-mail  Professor Setear so that we can include those links within this site. 
 


Belgian Neutrality before the Great War, http://belgianarmy.freeservers.com/neutrality.htm, describes the difficult position of Belgium, caught between a rock and a hard place in the late summer of 1914.  Originally set up as a buffer state between the 1914 belligerents, Belgium had ignored an army due to its neutral status, and the tiny state profited from that neutral status to concentrate its wealth on the industrial golden age.  But in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, King Leopold directed the construction of the Meuse fortresses at Liege and Namur to give Belgium some small line of defense in the event of a future invasion.  At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Belgium's army comprised 190,000 men, but there was no agreement about the deployment of these forces, up until the Germans marched in.  Moreover, the soldiers had only 93,000 rifles and 6,000 swords at their disposal, and the weak artillery consisted of only 324 obsolete field guns and a mere 102 machine guns. 

Belgian Neutrality before the Great War site goes on to outline the convergence of the French and German war plans on Belgium.  France's primary goal was to win back Alsace and Lorraine, which had been annexed by Germany in 1870, and France planned to launch an offensive into the German Rhine region from those territories.  But the French focus on offensive attacks cost them greatly during the early years of the war, because they had not prepared for defensive artillery that became crucial when Germany encircled the French eastern fortresses.  France never imagined Germany could advance through the northern parts of Belgium, because of the long distances involved and the solemn obligation to respect Belgian neutrality.  But that is indeed what the Germans did, justified by the necessity of self-preservation.  Germany's plan for Belgium was simply to knock out the forts at Liege and Namur, capture the all-important railways, and move on into France.  There was no way the Germans would let the six puny divisions of the Belgian army halt their advance.
       http://www.mistersmith.freeserve.co.uk/his1914.html is another site describing the war plans of the belligerents, including a note about the British Expeditionary Force and the Belgian strategy.

Brave Little Belgium, "The decisive part played by the worst-prepared army on the Western Front in 1914", http://www.belgianarmy.freeservers.com/home.htm, is a site honoring the tiny Belgian army that nonetheless stood up to the giant German army and defended its neutrality.  The site, which includes maps and images, describes the major battles fought by the Belgians from the initial German invasion through the end.  The author lauds the Belgians for imposing delays and losses on the advance of the German machine and credits them with playing a substantial role in minimizing Germany's chances of winning the war quickly, and maybe even winning at all.  But this important role did not come cheap; on the contrary, the Belgians suffered heavy casualties, their towns were badly damaged, and their economic infrastructure was destroyed.

For an alternative perspective on the German invasion of Belgium, see The Neutrality of Belgium, http://raven.cc.ukans.edu/~libsite/wwi-www/belgneut/BelgTC.htm#TC, written in 1915 by a German scholar, Alexander Fuehr.  As indicated in the footnotes to my paper, Fuehr strongly challenges the Allied legal position that Germany's invasion of Belgium was contrary to international law, and in fact, he proposes a whole slew of justifications as to why Germany's actions were lawful.  Many of these are untenable, and the reader must remember that this book was written at the height of the German propaganda machine defending their actions.  Nonetheless, it is a very interesting read.

You may also be interested to take a look at the compilations of diplomatic notes sent by the belligerent governments to their ambassadors and ministers informing them of official policies and information (see http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1914.html).  At this site, you can peruse the French, Belgian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Serbian books, which are all interesting reads to get an idea of events happening behind the scenes and the policies supporting the official announcements made by each government.