In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hague Conferences (1899, 1907)

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International Relations Hague Conferences (1899, 1907)
Freya Baetens
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 June 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 November 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0115


In 1899, Czar Nicolas II took the initiative to convene a peace conference with two core objectives in mind. One was to obtain a reduction of military budgets through some agreed system of disarmament, as the growing rivalry between the great industrialized European empires began to pose a major threat to the international system then existing. At the same time, he sought to reduce the suffering of war, especially by members of the armed and naval forces. The second and parallel objective was to strengthen the systems available for the pacific settlement of international disputes, especially through arbitration. The conference took place in The Hague between 18 May and 29 July 1899 and was attended by twenty-six delegations. The conference was successful in its work on international humanitarian law and the law on the pacific settlement of disputes, notably with establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, but it failed to achieve a reduction of military budgets and a plan for disarmament. However, it marked the first major multilateral international conference that was not limited simply to the European empires adjusting their relations or to the European powers dealing with the immediate repercussions of a war. The 1907 conference was convened to reexamine the work of 1899 in light of recent incidents such as the Boer War (1899–1902) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). The Second Hague Peace Conference was in session from 15 June to 19 October 1907 with forty-three delegations taking part. The main goals of this conference included elaboration on the provisions of the convention relative to the pacific settlement of international disputes, the international commissions of inquiry, and questions relative to maritime prizes. Little progress was made at this conference, although a report on the proposed international prize court was adopted in the context of the conference’s general work on the law of maritime warfare, and so was the Convention Respecting the Limitations of the Employment of Force for the Recovery of Contract Debts (the so-called Drago-Porter Convention). However, in the period of less than a decade that had passed between both conferences, the world had witnessed the rise of two great power blocs—the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy) and the Triple Entente (the United Kingdom, France, and Russia). These agreements for military cooperation implied that if two countries engaged in combat, the four others would automatically be drawn in as well. As early as 1907, through these alliances, a major war seemed inevitable. Moreover, over and above the two major alliances, the great powers had concluded numerous treaties with smaller countries. Hence, Serbia could count on support from Russia, which could lead to a dangerous situation because Serbia was an enemy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A conflict between Serbia and the Dual Monarchy could draw in Russia and, with Russia, the rest of Europe. This exact train of events led to the outbreak of World War I. Note: all works mentioned herein can be consulted at the Peace Palace library in The Hague.

Conference Documents

The official documents of both conferences are listed in this section; of particular importance for academic research purposes are (the translations of) the official texts of the proceedings of the Hague peace conferences of 1899 and 1907 in Scott 1920 and Scott 1921 (both cited under English and written by an international law expert to the delegation of the United States at the Second Hague Peace Conference). For research into the specific historical context of the peace conferences, it is recommended to consult the French documents as well as the correspondence of the various participants to the conferences.

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