Learning Curve, The Great War
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Extracts from the Treaty of London, 1839
(Catalogue ref: FO 93/14/4)
  • This document shows extracts from the Treaty of London in 1839.
  • The background to the treaty was complex. The Netherlands was a very mixed area in terms of the language, religion and nationality of its population. As a result, it was decided to create a new state of Belgium in 1839 that was mainly Catholic. Holland remained a largely Protestant country.
  • This was important to the European powers. Protestant Prussia (which later became Germany) was happy to see a Protestant country on its borders. France was happy to see a Catholic country on its borders. Most of all, the creation of Belgium meant that there would be an end to conflict in the region between the different groups. Also, a neutral Belgium could not ally with Prussia against France or with France against Prussia. This helped to create better relations between France and Prussia.
  • At this time, the great powers acted as police forces in international disputes. This was the main reason why Russia and Austria-Hungary were involved. Their main role was to make sure that France and Prussia both kept their promises to keep Belgium neutral. This meant that neither country would take over Belgium or use it as an ally against the other.
  • Britain also signed the treaty. Belgium had ports that were very close to the British coast. A hostile country could use Belgium's ports to attack British ships or even invade Britain.
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