Stephen C. Neff
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The age of parchment
in The rights and duties of neutrals
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From the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries, the law of neutrality came of age. This was achieved by the growth of a network of bilateral treaties of 'amity and commerce' between the principal European states. Resolution of neutrality issues by means of bilateral treaties was not an invention of the seventeenth century. The most striking feature of the treaty network of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was its liberality towards neutrals. Neutral ships sometimes attempted to undermine the visit-and-search process in unscrupulous ways. One was by destroying crucial evidence, for example by hastily throwing the ship's papers overboard as a belligerent ship approached. If Britain was gradually emerging as a consistent advocate of broad rights for belligerents, certain other states were moving in the opposite direction. From the 1780s, the effect of British free riding was set to become more apparent, to the particular discomfiture of France, Britain's long-term enemy.

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