Neutrality at Sea
As early as 1651, the English found themselves reacting to a surprisingly effective, yet almost suicidal, attack on their warships by the Swedish vessel Stockholm. Similar individualistic actions occurred in the 1660s and most spectacularly in the 1704 action of The Oland which saw a Swedish Crown warship attack eight Royal Navy 50-gunners while escorting a supply convoy destined, ironically, for England. More importantly, the usually hostile Scandinavian nations frequently pulled resources throughout the 1690s and 1700s to defend their commercial vessels. Backed by the newly penned legal justification provided by Joannis Gröningii’s Navigatio Libera (1693), the Scandinavians co-ordinated their naval assets and legal justifications to aggressively confront anyone bent on interfering with their right to free trade. This chapter reviews the Scandinavian reactions to attacks on their neutrality. These successfully reduced predation on neutral vessels and established a precedent for neutrality as a viable naval ideology thereafter.