The tercentenary of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713)

Logo Vrede van Utrecht - Peace of Utrecht

In 2012 I wrote twice about the Peace of Utrecht, the series of treaties which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713). The first post looked in great detail at the textual tradition of the Westphalian Peace of 1648, the Peace of Utrecht and the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). The post contains an overview of treaty collections and relevant websites for historical treaties. In my second post I looked at Early Modern peace treaties more generally and I tried to summarize the results of my first post and to bring together some elements for a search strategy. One of my main points was these peace treaties are indeed treaties in the plural. The Peace of Utrecht consists of 22 treaties, counting also the treaties concluded at Baden (1714) and Rastatt (1715). On April 11, 1713 seven separate treaties were concluded. Last week it was exactly 300 years ago that Utrecht was at the center of contemporary international politics.

For the commemoration in 2013 some 150 events will take place in Utrecht. In this post I want to inform you briefly about the more scholarly events such as congresses, lectures and exhibitions. It seemed useful and sensible not to present information on a number of related congresses only in a chronological order at the congress calendar of this blog. I will skip the publicity in the media which incidentally had to battle against other Dutch festivities, such as 125 years Concertgebouw and Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam after ten years of renovation. In this post I will benefit from a posting in Dutch on the Treaty of Utrecht at the website of the Foundation for the History of Old Dutch Law.

A scholarly approach of the Peace of Utrecht

The peace treaty between France and the Dutch Republic - The Hague, National Archives

The peace treaty between France and the Dutch Republic, signed in Utrecht, April 11, 1713 – The Hague, National Archives

Among the festivities in 2013 surrounding the commemoration scholarly events are not absent, but it took quite some time before one could notice them at the official website for the tercentenary, and eventually they are somewhat tucked away between concerts and other artistic events. A kind of filter would make it more easy to select particular events. The choice of one of the related themes, the commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Suriname in 1863, can be discussed. The treaty between Great Britain and Spain in which the Asiento de Negros, the concession for the Atlantic slave trade, was transferred to Great Britain, has conspicuously been signed March 26, 1713 in Madrid. However, the first major commemorating congress is called Performances of Peace: Utrecht 1713-2013 (Utrecht, March 24-26, 2013). The second main congress includes the history of slavery by focusing on colonial history, The Colonial Legacy: The Treaty of Utrecht 1713-1863-2013 (Utrecht, June 21-22, 2013). A one-day conference – which I normally would not include on my blog’s event calendar – looks at the long time influence and consequences of 1713, The 1713 Peace of Utrecht and its enduring effects (Utrecht, September 19, 2013).

Not only in Utrecht scholars will meet to discuss aspects of the Peace of Utrecht. The Peace Palace in The Hague and the University of Utrecht will organize a two-day conference The Art of Peace Making: Lessons Learned from Peace Treaties (September 19-20, 2013). In Paris the conference Une paix pour le monde: Utrecht 1713 will take place from October 24 to 26, 2013. In Canada a conference will be held in Montreal, 300 years of collective security since the treaty of Utrecht (1713-2013) (November 22, 2013). On November 29, 2013 the city archive of Ypres will host a one-day conference on the history of the Franco-Belgian border.

Some scholarly events have already been held. In Baden scholars met in November 2012 to study the efforts in the field of translation in diplomacy and publicity concerning the treaties of Utrecht, Baden and Rastatt. The German calendar website for the humanities H-Soz-u-Kult provides a report on this congress. In Madrid a three-day conference was hosted from June 7 to 9, 2012, on the theme 1713-2013: The Peace of Utrecht revisited. Historiographical Debate and Comparative Studies. A preparatory workshop on Rethinking the Peace of Utrecht 1713 for the conference in Madrid took place in Osnabrück on May 5-7, 2011. Two scholars participating in Madrid, Ana Crespo Solana and David Onnekink, will lecture together in Utrecht on April 23, 2013 on Los españoles, Europa y los Tratados de Utrecht.

Museums and the Peace of Utrecht

Some of the events commemorating the Peace of Utrecht enlist the services of modern art to bring home the importance of this peace treaty today. This year museums in Utrecht organize a number of activities, for which they have developed a special website, alas only in Dutch. For people who like to stick to history the safest choice is to visit the main exhibition In Vredesnaam [In the Name of Peace] at the Centraal Museum (April 12 to September 22, 2013). The archives at Utrecht have created an exhibition with the title Hoge pruiken, plat vermaak [High wigs, mean pleasure] at the visitor center located in the old provincial court, the building from which the header image of my blog stems. Clearly the imagery of the peace conference and the boost to city life for Utrecht in the early eighteenth century is at the heart of this exhibition (March 16 to September 25, 2013).

It was only by chance that I found information about another small exhibition at Utrecht – not mentioned at the special museum website – which documents in its own way the history and impact of the Peace of Utrecht. At the former guild hall of the blacksmiths, the St. Eloyengasthuis, an exhibition focuses on eighteenth century damask with images celebrating the peace treaty (April 24 to May 23, 2013).

New publications concerning the Peace of Utrecht

The peace negociations at the city hall of Utrecht, 1712 - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - image from  The Memory of the Netherlands, Historical Engravings from the Frederik Muller Collection

The peace negotiations at the city hall of Utrecht, 1712 – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – image from The Memory of the Netherlands, Historical Prints from the Frederik Muller Collection

As for recent scholarly publications concerning the Peace of Utrecht I have looked for them, but the harvest until now is meagre, and their language is mainly Dutch. In my contribution in Dutch I have listed also a few less recent publications. David Onnekink and Renger de Bruin have published De Vrede van Utrecht (1713) [The Peace of Utrecht (1713)] (Hilversum 2013), a very concise book which explains in its short compass successfully the importance of the peace that ended eleven years of war. Even the earlier commemorations in 1813 and 1913 are not forgotten. Scholars will take advantage from the list of pamphlets, printed correspondences and a up-to-date overview of the main relevant scholarly literature. I enjoyed the splendid choice of illustrations in this book. Onnekink and De Bruin do not forget to tackle the question why Utrecht was chosen. Several reasons have been mentioned, but none of them was mentioned by contemporaries. Surely the reception of the French king in 1672 by the city of Utrecht was quite favorable, and the States of Utrecht had advocated a peaceful solution against opposition from other Dutch provinces, but other cities could have hosted the negotiating parties, too. The two steps at the front of the old city hall did indeed nicely solve the problem of precedence among diplomats. The story of the streets and squares of Utrecht offering plenty space to coaches is a just a story. The city of Utrecht still lacks large squares!

In his new book historian Donald Haks studies the theme of publicity in the Dutch Republic during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, with a particular focus on pamphlets, Vaderland en vrede, 1672-1713. Publiciteit over de Nederlandse Republiek in oorlog [Fatherland and peace. Publicity about the Dutch Republic at war] (Hilversum 2013). Haks offers a broad perspective at all cultural aspects and forms of communication and information about the period of war which marked the slow decline of the Dutch Republic as an European power. Daan Bronkhorst looks at the early Enlightenment, political theory, colonial history and the role of monarchies in his volume of essays with the title Vrijdenkers, vorsten, slaven. Een nieuwe blik op de Vrede van Utrecht [Free minds, princes, slaves. A new look at the Peace of Utrecht] (Breda 2013).

Stefan Smid (Universität Kiel) wrote Der Spanische Erbfolgekrieg : Geschichte eines vergessenen Weltkriegs (1701-1714) [The War of the Spanish Succession. The history of a forgotten world war [1701-1714)] (Cologne 2011). At H-Soz-u-Kult Axel Flügel criticized the old-fashioned treatment of the subject by Smid who failed to put events and developments in broad perspectives, and at Sehepunkte Josef Johannes Schmid had even heavier remarks for Smid’s book. Hopefully other scholars will this year succeed in creating convincing, interesting and fitting new views of a war ended by a series of landmark peace treaties at Utrecht, Baden, Rastatt and Madrid.

A postscript

At The Memory of the Netherlands I found a slightly augmented version of the print showing the city hall of Utrecht in 1712 from the collection of the Atlas Van Stolk in Rotterdam, with below the picture a list of all negotiators and the houses where they were lodged.

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4 thoughts on “The tercentenary of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713)

  1. penwithlit

    Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    The treaty of Utrecht has been rather ignored in the public sphere. Gibraltar and Britain’s “right” to the slave trade may partially explain why the 300th anniversary has had little attention and yet it was important at the time and provided a temporary peace-

    Reply
    1. rechtsgeschiedenis Post author

      Thanks for reblogging my post! In the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and France scholarly events have been held this year to commemorate the Peace of Utrecht, but in the United Kingdom it seems indeed to have been ignored.

      Reply

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