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Magallánica : revista de historia moderna - Año de inicio: 2014 - Periodicidad: 2 por año
https://fh.mdp.edu.ar/revistas/index.php/magallanica - ISSN 2422-779X (en línea)

Neutral cover and globalised commerce in the wars of the 18th century

Eric Schnakenbourg


In the 18th century, even at the very heart of the wars, belligerents’ trade was not fully interrupted. One way to continue the commercial shipping was to appeal to neutral flags. The object of this paper is to see how the uses of the advantages of neutrality contributed to maintain and even increase the general globalisation of trade in the context of the 18th century overseas wars. In the Caribbean, under the cover of their neutrality, Dutch and Danish little islands were not just a place where enemy subjects could met, it was also convenient for quick naturalisations that allowed forbidden commercial relations between enemies. This story shows how transimperial commercial exchanges were deeply rooted and the impossibility even for the most powerful navy to control the reality of global trade. During the second part of the American Revolutionary War, Denmark remained the neutral power with the most important fleet. The Danes took benefit of their neutral status to open a direct trade with Venezuela and made impressive progresses in the Asiatic trade. In the particular circumstances of wartime, neutral shipping and trade could be an opportunity for both belligerents and non-belligerents. The first one found a way to continue their commerce even with enemy partners, and the second improved their shipping and trade and could under their name earn more money just by covering the belligerents’ activity. For neutrals on the whole, 18th century wars can also be considered as a fruitful period and a time of progress allowing access to new markets.

Palabras clave

18th century; war; America; Caribbean; neutrality; international commerce; smuggling.

Texto completo:



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