Simpson, Connor (2021) Blockade in Britain: the fluctuating influence of international law on political and public opinion 1899 – 1919. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The history of the Allied blockade of Germany and Central Europe is one of controversy, debate, and complexity. Even before its installation in 1914 there had been large-scale national and international debates over whether blockade and purposeful targeting of civilians was justified during war. These debates were the subject of deliberation for numerous public, politic, and extra-parliamentary groups from 1899-1919 including legal scholars, politicians, women’s groups, and naval officers. One of the most prominent influences upon these opinions was that of international law – this influence is the focus of this thesis.

At the turn of the twentieth-century international law was a growing force fast approaching its potential apex. Following on from the First Hague Conference in 1899, the planned Second Hague Conference in 1907 sought to establish the basis of all future international law. The Second Conference also led to the establishment of the London Naval Conference 1908-9 which sought to establish and codify international law over the use of blockade and other maritime warfare. Throughout these Conferences the influence of international law on British public and political opinion was substantial. The influence of international law continued to exert its pressure on British public and political opinion up to and past the outbreak of war in 1914. However, faith in international law in Britain waned under the pressures of war, leading to its abandonment in 1919 with the announcement of the blockades extension past hostilities and it was replaced by alternative concepts of humanitarianism centred on international solidarity, sisterhood and peace. This thesis explores this growth and fall of international law and argues that as the war progressed faith in international law was replaced with faith in humanitarianism. This thesis makes use of the current historiography surrounding international law, blockade, British press, and propaganda to inform this argument. It also makes extensive use of thus far neglected newspaper articles from the period in order to expand on the current historiography.

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