It is well known that then-Vice Admiral Sir John Arbuthnot ‘Jacky’ Fisher was Great Britain’s technical naval delegate to the 1899 Hague Conference. But his role and conduct at the Conference has received little scholarly attention. As a result, one of the enduring legacies of the 1899 Conference is the view that Fisher was a determined
opponent of peace and a scofflaw toward the laws of war both at the Conference and after. Some historians use this traditional view of Fisher to explain apparent inconsistencies and contradictions between the positions taken by Great Britain at the 1907 Hague Conference and the 1909 London Naval Conference and the Royal Navy’s strategy for war against Germany prior to the First World War. Other naval historians argue that Fisher’s seemingly wild-eyed pronouncements regarding his supposed contempt for the laws of warfare were in fact intended to deter war. This article presents a reassessment of Fisher and the 1899 Conference. It argues that Fisher was not the fanatic of unrestrained warfare as he is traditionally portrayed and that a reconsideration of the facts surrounding his appointment to the British delegation for the 1899 Conference and his actions there support this position.
This article was originally published in the New Zealand Journal of Research on Europe, Volume 11. We are grateful for their permission to post this article. It is in PDF format, and you can Download the PDF From Here.