Joanne Yao
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The 1856 Treaty of Paris and the first international organization
in The ideal river
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The Danube as a connecting river represented the flow of European power and civilization outward to command the eastern periphery, but the river as conduit can flow both ways, and in the 1850s, instability at the far reaches of the Danube delta threatened to destabilize European politics. Chapter 5 examines the Paris Peace Conference to end the Crimean War and the creation of the European Commission of the Danube to ensure a civilized and rational authority to control the mouth of the river. At Paris, competing interpretations of the transboundary river as private property versus international commons again took the diplomatic stage, but imaginaries of the Danube delta as an untamed space at the fringe of European civilization moved diplomats, particularly the French and British, to reject the Rhine Commission model as too weak a body to control this untamed geography. Instead, diplomats at Paris created a strong commission with independent authority not only to conduct engineering works to clear shipping channels, but with the policing and judiciary powers to maintain order and the fiscal powers to borrow money on the international market. By the 1930s, the Commission had become such an extraordinary international actor that historian Glen Blackburn even described it as being ‘at the twilight of statehood’.

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The ideal river

How control of nature shaped the international order


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