Dr Eleanor Davey 

Keynote Address: Reflecting on the centre in humanitarian histories: anti-colonialism, aid, and the laws of war

Senior Lecturer in the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), University of Manchester


Eleanor Davey is a Senior Lecturer in the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Idealism beyond Borders: The French Revolutionary Left and the Rise of Humanitarianism, 1954-1988 Cambridge University Press (2015). Prior to joining HCRI, she was a Research Officer in the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute, where she led a multi-year project promoting engagement with historical analysis in aid practice and policy-making. Her current research project explores the relationship between humanitarianism, the laws of war, and the ideas and organisations of national liberation.

Professor Andrew Thompson

Keynote Address: Humanitarianism on Trial: the ICRC during and after Decolonisation.

Professor of Modern History, University of Exeter/ Executive Chair, Arts and Humanities Research Council



Exeter/Care for the Future


Twitter: @profathompson

Andrew Thompson is the Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and an historian of modern empire at the University of Exeter. The major strand of his research interests have focused on the effects of empire on British private and public life, with publications including Imperial Britain (2000), The Empire Strikes Back (2005) and Britain's Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century (2012). His monograph Empire and Globalisation.: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, 1850-1914, (Cambridge, 2010), co-authored with Professor Gary Magee, explored the historical roots of modern globalisation and its relationship to imperial expansion. He is currently working on a book for Oxford University Press entitled Humanitarianism on Trial: How a global system of aid and development emerged through the end of empire.

Dr Roderick Bailey

Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford


Dr Roderick Bailey is a historian at the University of Oxford where he specialises in the study of modern warfare and resistance in the mid-C20th, the history of medicine and mental health, and the spaces where those worlds overlap. As a research fellow at Oxford’s new Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, he is currently embarked on a major study of international responses to major outbreaks of contagious disease during and immediately after the Second World War.


Typhoid, Terrorism, and the ICRC: Revisiting the Acre Outbreak of 1948

In 1948, typhoid broke out in the coastal town of Acre (Akka) in northwest Palestine. At the time, Palestine was under British administration; but local Jewish and Arab communities were in open conflict, and claims have been made since, with increasing volume and certainty, that Jewish militants had used typhoid bacteria to deliberately contaminate the town’s water supply in an act of bioterrorism. Today, these claims have become part of major narratives of the period and are routinely presented, in print and online, as fact, while documentary evidence proffered to support them have included extracts from the reports of an ICRC delegate who witnessed and recorded conditions inside Acre and the health of its inhabitants. This paper revisits those reports and draws on other contemporary documentation untapped until now. It sifts the supposed evidence for deliberate contamination, discusses how that claim has been presented publicly since 1948, and demonstrates how ICRC reports have been misused to fit a thesis that available evidence does not support.

Dr Monique J Beerli

The New School for Social Research & The Graduate Institute, Geneva


Dr Monique J. Beerli is currently a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. Her research interests include international political sociology, humanitarianism, international NGOs, security, transnational professional networks, organizational politics, and the politics of quantification. In her present project, she explores the staff management policies of the International Committee of the Red Cross, from the 1950s to present day. Her current book project, entitled Saving the Saviors: The Politics of Professionalizing Humanitarian Security¸ examines the emergence of a new professional figure in the humanitarian scene: the security manager. Dr. Beerli’s work has appeared in International Political Sociology, International Peacekeeping¸and Global Governance


The  ICRC  and  Professionalization  in  the  Post War Period:  Organizational Identity,  Power,  and  Control

In 1951, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) produces the first edition of a practical handbook, the Manuel du Délégué, intended for new delegates sent by the organization out on mission to act in the name of humanity. Tied to a wave of organizational restructurations and internal policy reforms that were effectuated in the post-World War II period to rationalize humanitarian action, the Manuel du Délégué essentially prescribes what a delegate is meant to do when on mission. It therefore dually defines what the organization considers “legitimate” humanitarian practice and, in doing so, aspires to harmonize the practices of a spatially-fragmented group of individuals that travel to various pockets and corners of the world to implement the ICRC’s mandate. While alluding to transformations in the content and structure of the manual over time, this paper will provide a critical socio-political analysis of the Manuel du Délégué and staff management policies more generally. In their prescription of how delegates should perform their work and who delegates should be, this paper will point to the role of staff management policies in the production of an organizational identity, which necessarily involves dynamics of power and control. In highlighting power relations between the institution and the individual, the overall aim is to analyze dynamics of inclusion/exclusion and domination/subordination not as “unintended consequences” of humanitarian action, but rather as inherent to the internal structuration of an international organization that positions itself as a representative of universalism and humanity. As such, this contribution does not seek to approach professionalization processes in a linear, finalistic fashion, which would normatively imply that humanitarian action is somehow more professional today as a result of these processes

Cédric Cotter and Ellen Policinski

Ellen Policinski

Managing Editor International Review of the Red Cross Institutional Affiliation: International Committee of the Red Cross


Ellen is the Managing Editor of the International Review of the Red Cross. She has been a member of the Review's editorial team since 2014. She previously worked in the legal department at the ICRC delegation in Washington. Prior to joining the ICRC, she worked on IHL dissemination at the American Red Cross at its headquarters in Washington, DC. She was also a law and policy consultant at the Washington-based NGO Center for Civilians in Conflict. She has an LL.M. from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and a J.D. from the University of Villanova Law School.

Dr Cédric Cotter

International Committee of the Red Cross


Cédric Cotter is a law and policy researcher at the ICRC. He worked for this organization in various positions at headquarter before joining the University of Geneva as Research Associate, where he got his PhD in history in 2016. He has published on various issues related to the history humanitarian action, in particular his book (s’)Aider pour survivre. Action humanitaire et neutralité Suisse pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, and the “Red Cross” article of the International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Cédric is currently working on the concrete impact of IHL in armed conflicts for the ICRC Law and Policy Forum.


A history of violence: IHL in the International Review of the Red Cross

2019 is not only the 100th anniversary of the League of Red Cross Societies, later the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, it is also the 150th anniversary of the International Review of the Red Cross, a journal that has deeply shaped the debate on humanitarian action and international humanitarian law (IHL) over the years. This contribution will look to the archives of the journal to trace the different evolutionary steps in the way IHL has been discussed. The first edition of the Bulletin international des sociétés de secours aux militaires blessés, was published in October of 1869. In the beginning, the journal acted as a means to report on the activities of National Red Cross Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In 1919, the portion devoted to the activities of the ICRC became the International Review of the Red Cross. Over time, this publication has evolved tremendously to become the Review we know today, a peer-reviewed academic journal that acts as a forum for debate on humanitarian law, policy and action. Through the rich body of literature in the archives of the journal, the authors will trace trends in the development of IHL, core to the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The authors will look at the way IHL is spoken about in the journal to answer several revealing questions: Who was (and is) deemed to have the authority to speak about IHL in the Review? To whom? How has IHL been conceptualized over time? And how has the way IHL is spoken about evolved?

Dr Rosemary Cresswell

University of Hull



Dr Rosemary Cresswell (formerly Wall) is a Senior Lecturer in Global History at the University of Hull, UK. She is the Principal Investigator for the project ‘Crossing Boundaries: The History of First Aid in Britain and France, 1909-1989’, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/N003330/1), and is writing the history of the British Red Cross. She is a Partner Investigator for the new Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 'Resilient Humanitarianism: A History of The League of Red Cross Societies, 1919-1991' (DP190101171), led by Melanie Oppenheimer. Her publications are on the history of infectious disease in hospitals, workplaces and communities, on colonial nursing, and on the history of first aid and of the Red Cross. Her first book was Bacteria in Britain, 1880-1939 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2013; Routledge paperback 2016).


The  League  of  Red  Cross  and  Red  Crescent  Societies/IFRC  and  the  emerging  HIV/AIDs  pandemic

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies undertook projects relating to HIV/AIDS from the 1980s, with the League creating a HIV/AIDS Policy in 1987 at the General Assembly in Rio. The League aimed to assist with policies in consultation with WHO, and actively co-ordinate National Societies and relevant intergovernmental organisations and NGOs. The League advocated that HIV/AIDS care, training and awareness was not supposed to be separate but built into existing activities – primary health care, youth, first aid, blood donation, and social welfare. The Rio decision was reviewed in 1991, 1993, and significantly revised in 2001 with the aim of a ‘truly global approach’. Not only was the emerging pandemic of HIV/AIDS framed as a humanitarian emergency, but it reframed first aid, which is the focus of my AHRC-funded research project on the history of first aid. ‘Community-based first aid’ became an idea in response to the epidemic which was based on prevention, not reaction to an accident or health emergency as first aid usually is, and, of course, HIV/AIDS affected safety advice for first aiders.

HIV/AIDS provides an example of how the League, and the IFRC from 1991, responded to an international tragedy through exchange of information and ‘good practice’. Practice and policy required relief but also prevention. There had been the further challenges regarding the safety of receiving blood transfusions, an urgent matter for many Red Cross societies involved in blood donation in the 1980s. Elizabeth Reid has argued that humanitarianism usually responds to the ‘immediate’ with ‘palliation’ rather than ‘prevention’, and has explored how HIV/AIDS can be framed as a disaster because of the rapid increase in rates of infection. But this paper contextualises this humanitarian response in previous campaigns; it is not the first time that the League had been involved in activities relating to prevention and treatment over a longer term, for example, a campaign regarding road safety and road accident first aid ran from 1930-1971.

Emma Hutchison

School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland


Emma Hutchison is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. Her work focuses on emotions and trauma in world politics, particularly in relation to security, humanitarianism and international aid. She has published in numerous academic journals. Her book Affective Communities in World Politics: Collective Emotions After Trauma (Cambridge University Press, 2016) was awarded the British International Studies Association Susan Strange Book Prize and the International Studies Theory Section Best Book Award.


Emotions and the transformation of international humanitarianism

International humanitarianism is more prominent now than it has ever been throughout history. Human rights standards as well as a broad scope of humanitarian agenda – from a ‘right to relief’ after disaster to a growing ‘right to protection’ – have intertwined to create a normative framework important to domestic and international governance, legitimacy, and order. Many of these advances may appear to have occurred in the last seventy years, yet humanitarian ideals and practices emerged in modern times, and with deeply emotional origins. However, the precise links between emotions and the history of humanitarianism are still not fully understood. This essay thus seeks to conceptually and empirically explore these historical linkages. Conceptually, the essay traces the historical emergence and transformation of humanitarian sensibilities and emotions from the 18th century into the present day, focusing in particular on how humanitarianism has been constituted in part through shifting emotional meanings attributed to suffering. To do this, the essay focuses empirically on pivotal humanitarian ‘moments’ and the role representations have played in attributing emotional, humanitarian meanings and mobilizing humanitarian movements globally. Included here are events that cut across the history of humanitarianism, from the abolitionism and the prohibition slavery to the Battle of Solferino and the eventual development of organisations such as the ICRC and WHO. Finally, by exposing the historical, cultural and political contingency of emotions and their influence in shaping humanitarian ideals and practices, the essay concludes by discussing how the bodily feelings, emotions and affects hold immanent possibilities for further future humanitarian transformations.

Dr Julia Irwin

University of South Florida

https://usf.academia.edu/JuliaIrwin and http://history.usf.edu/faculty/jirwin/ 

Julia Irwin is an Associate Professor of History at the University of South Florida. She is the author of Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (2013) and the forthcoming Catastrophic Diplomacy: A History of U.S. Responses to Global Natural Disaster.

Recent Publications:

“The ‘Development’ of Global Disaster Assistance: U.S. Disaster Relief Operations in the Western Hemisphere Between the World Wars” (2018)

"Connected by Calamity: The United States, the League of Red Cross Societies, and Transnational Disaster Assistance after the First World War” (2017)

“Raging Rivers and Propaganda Weevils: Transnational Disaster Relief, Cold War Politics, and the 1954 Danube and Elbe Floods” (2016).


The  League  of  Red  Cross  Societies  and  the  Origins  of  International  Disaster  Assistance,  1919-1969

My paper examines the history of the League of Red Cross Societies (now IFRC) and the pioneering role that it played in the fields of international disaster relief and prevention. One of the LRCS’s founding purposes, according to its Articles of Association, was “to furnish a medium for co-ordinating relief work in case of great national or international calamities.” From the early 1920s on, the LRCS Secretariat took this mission to heart, devoting increasing attention and resources to disaster aid, recovery, and preparedness efforts. To this day, disaster management remains a fundamental component of the IFRC’s work.

Tracing the origins of this role, my paper examines the LRCS’s international disaster assistance work during its first thirty-five years of existence. Between 1919 to 1939, the LRCS Secretariat gradually expanded its involvement in international disaster response and encouraged member National Societies to do likewise, all while navigating a complicated relationship with another nascent disaster aid organization: the International Relief Union (IRU). By the outbreak of World War II, the LRCS had established itself a major figure in the field of international disaster assistance while the IRU was practically defunct. Although wartime humanitarian exigencies diverted the LRCS’s energies from natural catastrophes between 1939 and 1945, the League Secretariat quickly resumed its involvement in this field once the conflict ended. In the decade after World War II, the LRCS significantly expanded its participation in global disaster response and cultivated its reputation as an authority in disaster preparedness, even as new United Nations agencies and international voluntary organizations challenged its dominance in these areas. By the League Board of Governor meeting in 1954, where attendees adopted a landmark set of General Principles of Disaster Relief Coordination, the LRCS had secured its status as a preeminent player in global disaster response, a position it retains today.

Marian Moser Jones 

Ph.D., M.P.H. Associate Professor, Department of Family Science, University of Maryland School of Public Health


Marian Moser Jones is a social historian who examines the institutionalization of benevolence in the United States. Her book, The American Red Cross, from Clara Barton to the New Deal, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2013. Her lead-authored article, “Poison Politics: A Contentious History of Consumer Protection against Dangerous Household Chemicals in the United States,” received the 2012-2013 Article of the Year award from the American Journal of Public Health. In 2005, Jones authored a commissioned monograph,  Protecting Public Health in New York City: 200 Years of Leadership. She is currently writing about U.S. nurses who served in World War I.


[Not]  Allowed  to  Serve:  African  American  Red  Cross  Nurses  in  the  Immediate Postwar Period

When World War I ended, African American nurses were finally allowed to wear the Red Cross pin. This paper explores the work and lives of these pioneering nurses, in the context of U.S. postwar racial turmoil and the Red Cross movement’s global postwar idealism. The American Red Cross, which held official responsibility for recruiting and vetting a corps of professionally trained female nurses for the U.S. Army and Navy during World War I, initially accepted no African Americans among the nearly 24,000 nurses it enrolled, despite the fact that nearly 3,000 African American women were trained professional nurses. In July 1918, following an organized campaign by African American organizations and newspapers, the American Red Cross changed its policy and began enrolling qualified African American nurses who met its stringent qualifications. When its leaders then notified the Army that these nurses were ready for service, Army medical leaders replaced overt refusal with quiet inaction. Then, on the day before the Armistice, the Army called up eighteen enrolled Red Cross nurses to be inducted into its Nurse Corps and sent to Camp Sherman, Ohio and Camp Grant, Illinois to care for soldiers suffering from pandemic influenza. These professional nurses served until late 1919 in U.S. Army camps within the United States. Several remained active in the Red Cross through World War II. This case study illustrates how the American Red Cross, once an agent of racial exclusion, during the immediate postwar period became a reluctant vehicle for the advancement of racial equality in U.S. nursing. More broadly, it suggests that the right to be free from discrimination is equally important for humanitarian actors as for recipients of humanitarian assistance.

Dr Sonya de Laat

McMaster University


Dr. Sonya de Laat is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Humanitarian Health Ethics at McMaster University, Canada. She is interested in the moral, political, and social dimensions of humanitarian action, with a particular interest in histories of humanitarian visual culture. With degrees in media studies and cultural anthropology, she also has over a decade of experience in qualitative health research primarily on humanitarian health ethics in practice. She has published on histories of humanitarian photography in Africa and North America, on the role of pictures in American empire-building, and on moral dimensions of the photographic situation of refugees.

Recent publications:

de Laat, S. (2018). “Seeing Refugees”: Using Old Photographs to Gain New Perspectives on Refugees, Past and Present. ActiveHistory.ca. 25 October. http://active history.ca/2018/10/seeing-refugees-using-old-photographs-to-gain-new-perspectives-on-refugees-past-and-present/

Tijerina, S. and de Laat, S. (2018).Constructing Modernity and Progress: The Imperializing Lens of an American Engineer in the Early Twentieth Century. Ipersotria, No. XI, Spring/Summer, 24-39. http://www.iperstoria.it/joomla/images/PDF/Numero_11/monografica_11/Tijerina%20and%20de%20Laat.pdf

de Laat, S.(2018). Pictures of migration: The invisible shock of misery photographs. Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies, 7(1): 15-36. DOI: 10.1386/ajms.7.1.15_1


In  then  Out  of  the  Frame:  Lewis  Hine’s  Photographs  of  Refugees  for  the  American  Red  Cross,  1919-1920

Recent interventions in visual theory claim the camera affords the disenfranchised a form of political participation through the civil space opened up by the medium, a space where creator, subject and spectator intersect. Crucial to this formulation is visibility: being seen enables participation in a political community, even if only through a citizenry of photography. From June 1918 to April 1919, the American social photographer Lewis Hine—already acclaimed for his pictures of child labour across the United States—made photographs of refugees in Europe. Refugees emerged as an unexpectedly humanitarian subject emerging from the First World War. Care for them was part of the America Red Cross’ (ARC) overall war relief activities, which Hine was hired to visually record. In this paper, I present the way in which refugees went from being framed in the ARC’s mass-circulated popular Red Cross Magazine as unique, innocent, idealized war-affected civilians to eventually being visually displaced by the emerging universal humanitarian figure of the child. This displacement diminished opportunities to imagine alternative frames of the refugee other than those that began to prevail in popular xenophobic discourse that dominated political ideology in many countries to where refugees fled. For refugees who were, by 1920, making their way across the ocean to North America, visual displacement from the humanitarian sphere was tantamount to territorial displacement. Anxieties and negative rhetoric of the unassimilated alien prevailed, resulting in the temporary ‘closure’ of America’s borders and the ARC’s growing American-centric relief activities. Entwined with anti-Bolshevism, American immigration and isolationist politics of the early twentieth century, Hine’s photographs and ARC’s role in contributing to humanitarian photography are an early example of a rise and fall in sympathies towards refugees that would continue throughout the century.



Dr Kimberly Lowe

Lesley University


Kimberly Lowe is an Assistant Professor of History at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She received her PhD from Yale University and has held doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships at Amherst College, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and Albert-Ludwigs-Universität. Her research interests include the history of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, transnational social movements and intergovernmental organizations.

Recent publications include:

“The League of Red Cross Societies and International Committee of the Red Cross: a re-evaluation of American influence in interwar internationalism,” Moving the Social, 57 (2017): 37-56; and “Humanitarianism and National Sovereignty: Red Cross Intervention on Behalf of Political Prisoners in Soviet Russia, 1921–3.” Journal of Contemporary History 49, no. 4 (2014): 652-674.


The Red Cross, civilians and political prisoners: legal advocacy and humanitarian interventions, 1912-1938

In 1921, the 10th International Conference of the Red Cross declared that all humans who suffer had an “incontestable right” to humanitarian aid from others, and that these rights were guaranteed by the “superior laws of humanity.” This paper provides a contextual analysis of the 1921 debates and resolutions, paying particular attention to the period from 1912 to 1938 and the impact on imperial hierarchies, international law, and aid provision on the ground. I argue that the 1921 conference represented a radical rethinking of the relationship among the Red Cross movement, international humanitarian law, and sovereign states. For the first time since 1863, delegates to the 1921 conference made specific declarations about the rights of civilians in international wars, and combatants, non-combatants, and political prisoners in internal conflicts. This was a departure from the movement’s prior understanding of war victims’ rights as limited to combatants hors de combat and contingent on international agreements among sovereign states. The resolutions had immediate implications for national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies caught up in the revolutions, border disputes, civil wars, and inter-ethnic conflicts that tore through Eastern Europe and Central Asia from 1918-1923. However, the successful implementation of these resolutions required profound legal and institutional changes that failed to materialize over the next two decades.

Dr Dominique Marshall

Carleton University, Department of History, Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, Carleton University Disability Research Group


Dominique Marshall is the History Department Chair at Carleton University. She is the coordinator of the Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, co-principal researcher of the Carleton University Disability Research Group, and co-applicant of the SSHRC funded Local Engagement Refugee Research Network (LERRN). Her current research is about the Conference on the African Child of 1931, and the history of OXFAM in Canada. She was the president of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) (2013 to 2015). She was trained at the Université de Montréal, with stays at Boston University, and the London School of Economics, and received visiting fellowships at the School of Oriental and African Studies and Oxford Brookes’ program for the History of Medicine.

Her book, Aux origines sociales de l’État providence received a Canada Prize (1998) from the Canadian Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities.


Understanding the history of the Ethiopian Red Cross, 1935-1975 

The literature on the early history of the autonomous Ethiopian Red Cross, founded in 1935 by Haile Selassie, has yet to include the material deposited at the archives of the FRCRC in Geneva. Since writing a small history of the Red Cross and Save the Children sponsored “Centre of Chid Welfare of Addis Ababa” in 2006 (1), and a survey of the existing material in 2011 for the Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (2), I have uncovered primary documents in Geneva, and published materials, which will help address further the question the role of the Red Cross in Ethiopian public life. The paper is also an occasion to delve more deeply into problems highlighted by the recent historiography of humanitarian aid and transnational relations (3). The role of religion, the gendered division of labour, the uneven role of colonial relations, the respective weight of national traditions and the Red Cross movement, the changing uses of the media, the evolution of the national society’s budget and management techniques, will all be addressed to make sense of long term changes. The case of Ethiopia in this period is exceptional as it represents the earliest instance of a Red Cross Society associated with an independent African state, and the prelude to one of the most emblematic history of humanitarian aid of modern times.

Professor Melanie Oppenheimer 

Professor and Chair of History at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia


Melanie Oppenheimer holds a substantive position as Professor and Chair of History at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. She is currently Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at the University of Tokyo based at the Centre for Pacific and American Studies.

She is the author/co-author of seven books including All Work. No Pay. Australian Civilian Volunteers in War, that was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Prize in 2003; Volunteering. Why we can’t live without it (2008), and a centenary history of Australian Red Cross that was published by HarperCollins in 2014, The Power of Humanity. 100 Years of Australian Red Cross. She has also written numerous articles in academic journals and book chapters.

She has served a three-year term on the Australian Research Council's (ARC) College of Experts; was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2017; and is currently Vice-President of the Australian Historical Association. She is delighted to be Lead Chief Investigator (CI) on a new 4-year ARC project, 'Resilient Humanitarianism: The League of Red Cross Societies, 1919-91' with Susanne Schech and Romain Fathi (Flinders), Rosie Cresswell (Hull), and Neville Wylie (Stirling).


Pioneers in public health nursing: the League of Red Cross Societies in the interwar period

From its inception, public health nursing was a major programme of the League of Red Cross Societies. Within its broader mission to improve health, prevent disease and alleviate suffering in peacetime, the development and professionalisation of nursing became a major undertaking for the League in the post-war years through the network of national Red Cross societies. The League’s Department of Nursing was part of a General Medical Department and included medical information, child welfare, tuberculosis, communicable diseases, sanitation, malaria and vital statistics. The inaugural Director of Nursing was American nurse, Alice Fitzgerald, who served with the QAIMNS and American Red Cross during the war. An early initiative of the League was the establishment of an international course of training for public health nurses. First run in 1920 at King’s College, London, the one-year course offered both theoretical and practical training in sick nursing and public health work. The first intake of 19 nurses came from around the Red Cross world including Italy, Greece, Poland, Peru and Venezuela. The League facilitated a scholarship scheme with nine students funded by national societies and the remainder by the League. After the first year, the programme was transferred to Bedford College, University of London, where it evolved into an internationally recognised programme that educated hundreds of nurses through the interwar period. As well as founding a hostel, the League of Red Cross Societies’ Nursing Home established at 15 Manchester Square, London, the League facilitated the Old Internationals’ Association, an alumnae association that by 1938 had 296 members. This paper focuses on the early years of this innovative international public health programme, on the roles played by Alice Fitzgerald, Katherine Olmsted, Maynard Carter and other League leaders as they sought to establish and consolidate the programme within the somewhat precarious environment of the League in its foundation years. It provides us with an insight into the impact of the League on the Red Cross movement more broadly and its role as a nascent supranational organisation facilitating the exchange of knowledge and information within the Red Cross world that led to the development of nursing in specific national societies that extended from Europe to Asia. In doing so, the paper reveals the geopolitics, the competing and contested agendas, philosophies and inherent tensions surrounding nursing training more broadly and reframes the arguments by suggesting that without the League of Red Cross Societies, there would have been no international public health nursing courses and the development of public health more broadly in the interwar period would have looked very different.

Caroline Reeves

Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


Caroline Reeves is an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center, specializing in the history of Chinese charity and philanthropy. She has taught at Harvard University, Williams College, Emmanuel College and on Semester at Sea. She was co-organizer of the collaborative project “The Social Lives of Dead Bodies in Modern China” and has published on charitable responses to burial in Republican China, the birth of humanitarian photography in China, the founding and development of China’s national Red Cross Society, and on China’s charitable tradition as a model for the Global South. She is now working on a manuscript on the history of Chinese philanthropy and its import in the contemporary global arena. 


Gender  in  the  Red  Cross  Movement:  Lessons  from  the  Red  Cross  Society  of  China

Gender has played an important role in Red Cross iconography all around the world. Media representations of Red Cross activity have made some of these local traditions very visible. From its inception in 1904, the Red Cross Society of China has exhibited gendered approaches to the Red Cross mission different from those of the dominant Western and Japanese Societies. This paper examines Chinese Red Cross materials, including publications, photographs, and media representations of men, women, and children in the post-WWI period to show cultural variation in the Red Cross Movement. These historical observations on cultural diversity in the Red Cross Movement continue to be relevant in the contemporary humanitarian sphere and critical to improving global dialogue on humanitarian activity.

Rhea Rieben, MA

Department of History, University of Basel


Rhea Rieben graduated in Slavonic Studies and Eastern European History at the University of Basel in 2017. She studied with Prof. Dr. Frithjof Benjamin Schenk (University of Basel) and at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Currently, she is working on her PhD project about Swiss architect Hans Schmidt and the political discourse on the Neues Bauen form the 1920s until the 1950s. At the conference Rhea Rieben will present the results of her master thesis supervised by Prof. Schenk on the visual strategies of the Swiss Red Cross and the Swiss Save the Children’s fund during the famine from 1921 to 1923 in Soviet Russia with the title «Die Hungersnot im Fokus. Die Bildstrategien des Schweizerischen Roten Kreuzes und des Schweizer Kinderhilfskomitees zur Hungersnot in Russland 1921–1923.


Focus  on  Famine.  Visual  Strategies  of  the  Swiss  Red  Cross  During  the  Russian  Famine  from  1921  to  1923

In summer 1921 news about a famine in Southern Russia made its way into Western media. This famine was to become the first big humanitarian crisis after World War I. Western countries were quick on organizing famine relief programs. The Comité International de secours à la Russie i.e. served as an umbrella organization, initiated by the ICRC, to coordinate European relief campaigns by national Red Cross movements and other humanitarian organizations. The Swiss Red Cross (SRC) too, participated in this relief campaign. Beside the humanitarian staff, it sent a PR specialist for taking photographs of the famine conditions and documenting the organization’s relief work. This was a new practice for the SRC and very much in the spirit of interwar relief actions. During WW I, humanitarian campaigns underwent professionalization and commercialization and increasingly made use of photographs in order to attract people’s attention for human suffering. In my paper, I will talk about the Swiss Relief campaign and focus on the role of media in mobilizing Swiss people. First, I will argue that the SRC focused on atrocity-themed pictures, showing the suffering of children, in order to get spectators emotionally involved. Second, I will argue, that the photographs showing SRC-staff in action are an expression of the professionalization process during those years. The pictures were used to prove the scientific nature of the efficiency with which the SRC was at work. Therefore, I analyze the photographs produced by their PR in Russia and the ones used in the SRC’s newsletter Das Rote Kreuz. My case study gives an insight in the process of developing visual strategies for ‘propaganda’ campaigns and shows how the SRC actively took part in the negotiation of famine and relief iconography and in thus linking the Swiss case to broader developments within the International Red Cross movement.

Beth Robertson and Dominque Marshall

Dr. Beth A. Robertson

Department of History


Beth A. Robertson is a gender and sexuality historian of science, medicine and technologies of the marginal or the marginalized. Her research interests encompass the history of the body, the senses, queer theory, visual and material culture, transnationalism and disabilities.

Her book, Science of the Séance: Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-1940 was released by UBC Press in the fall of 2016.

She is book review editor of Scientia Canadensis and winner of the 2017 History Fellowship of the Association of Computer Machinery. Her new project is dedicated to the development of assistive and adaptive technologies by and for people with disabilities in the postwar period, examining how these devices contributed to larger discourses of disability and rights within Canada and internationally.

Dr Dominique Marshall

Carleton University, Department of History, Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, Carleton University Disability Research Group


Dominique Marshall is the History Department Chair at Carleton University. She is the coordinator of the Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, co-principal researcher of the Carleton University Disability Research Group, and co-applicant of the SSHRC funded Local Engagement Refugee Research Network (LERRN). Her current research is about the Conference on the African Child of 1931, and the history of OXFAM in Canada. She was the president of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) (2013 to 2015). She was trained at the Université de Montréal, with stays at Boston University, and the London School of Economics, and received visiting fellowships at the School of Oriental and African Studies and Oxford Brookes’ program for the History of Medicine.

Her book, Aux origines sociales de l’État providence received a Canada Prize (1998) from the Canadian Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities.


People with disabilities and the Red Cross Moverment, 1945-85

This paper comes from converging insights gathered during research in the history of humanitarian work with people with disabilities in Canada, and research on the work of the FRCRC with people with disabilities. The Federation documents, which have not yet been studied according to International Federation archivist Grant Mitchell, identify a variety of national and transnational endeavours, from the assistance of Moroccan hospitals coping with an epidemic of paralysis in the late 1950s, to Norway holiday camps for handicapped and able-bodied children in the early 1970s, in addition to the all present theme of the rehabilitation of civilians and soldiers disabled by war. The main question of this initial survey is to identify when, why and in which terms the Red Cross movement has paid attention to disability. The paper builds on an approach developed in current research projects concerning transnational activities of Canadian NGOs, starting with one program managed the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in the late 1950s to resettle displaced people who were blind within Canada (1) , and the role of the (Canadian based) Mennonite Central Committee in the making of the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is especially with the extent and nature of the role of people with disabilities in the development of enabling technologies and discourses of rights

Dr Lukas Schemper 

Sciences Po Paris

I am a historian with an interest in international organizations, disaster, and aid in its development and humanitarian dimension. These interests found themselves in my PhD research, which dealt with the emergence of international governance mechanisms in the field of disaster management from the inter-war period to the late 1980s. I am now expanding my interest to industrial disaster and, for this conference, to “intellectual aid.” I am currently a teaching fellow at Sciences Po Paris. Past affiliations have included the Graduate Institute Geneva, the Institute of Human Sciences (Vienna), Universities of Vienna, Oxford, and Manchester, as well as Columbia University.

Recent publications:

‘La prévention des catastrophes naturelles et les organisations internationales du temps de la sdn au lendemain de la guerre froide. Quelle place pour l’environnement ?’ Revue Études internationales XLVII, n° 1 (2016): 29–80.

‘Transnational Expertise on Natural Disasters and International Organizations: Historical Perspectives from the Interwar Period’. In Transnational Expertise, ed. by Ch. Henrich-Franke, R. Kaiser, Ch. Lahusen, and A. Schneiker, 29–54. Nomos, 2018.


The ICRC and intellectual aid during the 2nd world war

In 1940, the ICRC created a “Service des Secours Intellectuels” alongside its much better known “Agence Centrale des Prisonniers de Guerre.” This was a departure from the ICRC’s strategy during the previous world conflict, when it had largely left intellectual aid to such actors as universities or the YMCA. Intellectual aid during the war took the form of book donations, the support of leisure and artistic activities, the support of scientific and journalistic activities in captivity, and the organization of entire captivity universities allowing soldiers to start or pursue studies. The ICRC was only one of several agencies with educational, intellectual, or spiritual mandates that started to launch aid programs for prisoners of war (POW). They included organizations as varied as the International Bureau of Education (IBE), YMCA, or the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Similar to the ICRC, these organizations justified their aid programs with some precedent of intellectual aid during the First World War and with the Geneva Convention of 1929 that encouraged intellectual “distractions” of POWs and regulated problems relating to the provision of books and censorship. Many of these agencies were not “duly recognized and authorized relief societies” as stipulated by the Convention and also had no experience in delivering aid. Thus, some of them had problems accessing POW camps and all of them depended heavily on advice and resources from the ICRC. The ICRC, in return, was not logistically equipped to deal with the very specialized requests from POWs for manuals, dictionaries or scientific literature. Hence, collaboration - first informal then formal - emerged between the ICRC and other providers of intellectual aid. In 1940, a consultative committee headed by ICRC delegate Martin Bodmer was created to facilitate collaboration, not least because governments were unable to cope with the redundant and disorganized offer of intellectual aid from different sides. Drawing from archival research at the ICRC and the IBE, this contribution aims to investigate a hitherto under-researched chapter of humanitarian aid during the Second World War. It will inquire more generally into the emergence of intellectual aid as a concept and practice, how it had evolved since the First World War, and how the ICRC incorporated it into its aid activities during the war. It will emphasize the role of the ICRC as the center in a network of other agencies providing intellectual aid and discuss moments of collaboration and competition between these actors.

Dr Christine Schmidt and Professor Dan Stone

Dr Christine Schmidt

The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide


Dr Christine Schmidt is the Deputy Director and Head of Research at the Wiener Library in London, one of the world’s oldest institutions collecting documentation and disseminating research on the Holocaust. Dr Schmidt leads the Library’s outreach, research and public engagement activities. Her work has focused on the history of the International Tracing Service and early tracing efforts in Britain, post-war research and collection initiatives by the staff of the Wiener Library, the concentration camp system in Nazi Germany and comparative studies of collaboration and resistance in France and Hungary.

Professor Dan Stone

Royal Holloway, University of London


Dan Stone is Professor of Modern History and Director of the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London. The author of some 80 scholarly articles, he has also written or edited 16 books, including Histories of the Holocaust (OUP, 2010); Goodbye to All That? The Story of Europe since 1945 (OUP, 2014); The Liberation of the Camps (Yale, 2015); and Concentration Camps: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2019). He is currently writing a book on the International Tracing Service for OUP and a book on the Holocaust for Penguin's revived Pelican series.


The  Red  Cross  and  the  International  Tracing  Service:  Neutral  Humanitarianism,  the  Cold War,  and  the  Politics  of  Tracing  the  Missing

From 1955 until 2007, the International Tracing Service (ITS) was administered by the ICRC. During this time, the ITS was run as a closed institution with access to outsiders (such as historians) only rarely granted. But before 1955, when the agency originally known as the Central Tracing Bureau was established by the Allies in 1944, the ICRC assumed it would be selected to run it, and the British Red Cross Society believed – and was given to believe by the British Foreign Office – that it would run the British National Tracing Bureau. This paper explores why the Red Cross was excluded from running the Allies’ tracing service, which was undertaken instead by a series of Allied occupation bodies, meaning that ITS was ultimately answerable to the military: UNRRA (1944-47), IRO (1948-51), and HICOG (1951-55). The reasons for this decision have to do with the clash between the ICRC’s remit of neutral humanitarianism and the Allies’ decision that the ITS would investigate cases of ‘United Nationals’ only; the lack of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Switzerland; and the sense held by the Allies that tracing was not solely an ethical concern but went hand in hand with repatriating displaced persons (i.e. population control), and the reconstruction of Germany and Europe. With the creation of the IRO, which precipitated the split between the Soviets and the Western Allies, ITS also became a Cold War instrument.

Nevertheless, after 1955, when the politics of tracing were no longer so pressing, it suited the Allies to hand over its administration to the Red Cross. The second part of the paper explores why, after more than four decades, the ICRC decided to terminate its role and to hand ITS over to the German government (under the supervision of the International Commission which legally owns ITS). Pressure from outside bodies, especially the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the World Jewish Congress, was crucial here, as it became clear that ITS’s holdings were far more extensive and valuable than the ICRC had maintained, and as the scandalously slow response times to tracing requests became ever more indefensible in an age of ‘Holocaust consciousness’, compensation schemes for Eastern European slave labourers, and the inexorable dying off of survivors.

This paper describes the changing relationship between the Red Cross and the ITS, and seeks to show how the Red Cross’s changing interpretation of its remit allowed it first to take on the role of running ITS and, second, to give it up as the rise in ‘Holocaust consciousness’ after the Cold War challenged its stance.

Anne Shpakovskaya, PhD

Duisburg-Essen University, Germany


Anna Shpakovskaya, PhD, is postdoctoral research fellow currently working in German-French research project on political representation in Germany, France, China, Brazil and India.

One of Anna’s recent articles in Chinese include: “Theoretical and Methodological Issues in the Study of the Red Cross Movement”.2018. Red Cross Movement Research 2018. (with Thomas Heberer) “The Transformation of Political Representation Through Digital Technologies: The Case of China and it’s Theoretical Implications.” 2018. Foreign Theoretical Trends, No 10, 68-77.


The Chinese Red Cross and Belt Road initiative: New Opportunities and Challenges

In this paper I discuss the role of the Chinese Red Cross in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I argue that the BRI offers unprecedented opportunities for the organizational growth of the Chinese Red Cross. It also stimulates integrative cooperation between the Red Cross Societies in the BRI participant countries. I commence by briefly outlining the BRI policy framework and current state of its implementation. I then move on to discussing the positioning of the Chinese Red Cross within the BRI. That followed by an analysis of organizational transformation of the Chinese Red Cross Society in the recent years. In the conclusive part of the paper I discuss major challenges and future prospects of international humanitarian cooperation led by the Chinese Red Cross within the BRI framework. In this paper I primarily draw upon semi-structured interviews conducted in China in 2018 and 2019, analysis of official documents and ample secondary sources.

Sander Tetterro

Leiden University (Netherlands) and Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia)


Sander Tetteroo (1988) obtained his B.A. and Research M.A. degrees from Leiden University. He is currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University, in collaboration with Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. His research project “Calamitous Indonesia: aid to victims of natural disasters (c.1890-1965)” analyses social and political responses to natural disasters in the Netherlands Indies/Indonesia. The project utilizes a range of case studies of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and famines to scrutinize the actions, interests and ideologies of affected communities and governmental and civil society actors during disaster relief in a (post)colonial context. His main research interests are the histories of famine and disaster, social responses to calamity, ideologies of charity and humanitarian aid, and the Indonesian (post)colonial state.


Independence,  Nationhood  and  Humanitarianism:  the  early  years  of  the  Indonesian  Red  Cross  under  President  Sukarno (c. 1945-1965)

On 17 August 1945, Sukarno and Muhammad Hatta proclaimed Indonesia’s independence. What followed was a more than 4-year independence war against the Netherlands, which attempted to reclaim its Indonesian colony. Exactly one month later, on 17 September of the same year, the Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI; Indonesian Red Cross) was officially created. During and after the independence war the PMI became a practical and symbolic tool for both nation-building and international politics. When the war ended in late 1949 and Indonesia formally became independent, the new state faced a multitude of challenges. In the 1950s and 1960s, the country suffered several internal rebellions: by the Republic of the Southern Moluccas, the Darul Islam movement in Western and Central Java, and the Permesta/PRRI rebellions in Sumatra and Sulawesi all challenged central authority and caused major humanitarian crises. Meanwhile, frequently recurring disasters such as floods, food shortages and volcanic eruption of the volcano’s Kelud, Merapi and Agung all posed major humanitarian challenges to the Indonesian state. The PMI emerged as one Indonesia’s principal organizations that dealt with organizing relief for natural disasters and internal conflicts. In charting the early years of the Palang Merah Indonesia, crucial questions will be: (1) what roles did PMI assume in domestic humanitarian relief operations for refugees of conflicts and victims of disasters?; (2) how did PMI and the Indonesian state present PMI humanitarian relief to domestic and international audiences, and to which extent were such representations politically motivated?; (3) what place did the PMI have in Indonesian international humanitarian relations? To answer these questions, I draw on sources collected in Indonesia, including PMI’s own archives and official magazines and the Genevan archives of the ICRC and IFRC.

Dr Michiko Suzuki

PhD in History, SOAS University of London

Dr Michiko Suzuki received a PhD in History at SOAS University of London. She focused on modern Japanese and East Asian history. Her thesis traced the history of the wartime humanitarian relief activities of the Japanese Red Cross Society personnel, and examined the extent to which the Japanese notion of ‘humanitarianism (jindō: 人道), literally meaning ‘the way of humanity’ in Japanese, imposed the discourses of the evolution of the modern global humanitarian movement in the world.

Dr Suzuki is currently acting as a research assistant at the University of Tokyo. She has presented her paper at a number of significant conferences such as the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference on the Prohibition and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in Nagasaki, Japan in 2017.


The Crisis of Internationalism: The 15th International Conference of the Red Cross in Tokyo, 1934

The Japanese Red Cross Society hosted the 15th International Red Cross Conference in Tokyo in 1934 amidst extreme global uncertainty. It was one of the largest scale international congresses in the interwar period. Although the League of Red Cross Societies was founded in 1919, their trial of the development of an international peace programme did not last long. The world suffered from the Great Depression brought about by the advent of fascism and the rise of ultra-nationalism. Focusing on the Japanese Empire, its military operations became fiercer in East Asia, and established Manchukuo in 1932. In the following year, the Japanese Empire announced its withdrawal from the League of Nations, causing a malfunction in the international organisation. Amidst the extreme international crisis, the Tokyo Conference unanimously adopted the Tokyo Declaration, which called on the world to afford protection to civilians within a wider context for the first time. The proclamation became the foundation of the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949.

This paper will analyse to what extent the Conference in Tokyo imposed the discourses of the crisis of humanitarianism and Wilsonian internationalism during a period of extreme global uncertainty within a transnational historical context.


Conference Schedule

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