Tweeting the Foundation of the United Nations

On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. A delegate from each nation gave a short speech before signing the Charter. China signed first with its delegate, Dr. V. Wellington Koo, declaring that the world needed “trust & collaboration to make this greatest of international experiments a success.” The ceremony on June 26 represented the culmination of two months of work at the United Nations Conference on International Organization. But it also marked the start of years of work to create other UN agencies and to find a permanent home for the UN General Assembly.

The United Nations History Project has created a Twitter account to trace the founding of the United Nations in real time, seventy years later. The project started in late April with the opening of the San Francisco conference. On June 26, it will tweet the speeches of all fifty delegates. The project will continue over the next few years. Among other events, the Twitter feed will record the debates over the creation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the UN moving to New York, and the accession of new member states such as Poland.

The Twitter account aims to give a sense of the UN’s creation in real time. The UN did not just spring into being on June 26 when delegates signed the Charter. Its creation took years of negotiation and compromise. Follow the account (@UN_History) to see the UN’s development unfold!

First GHRA, 13-24 July 2015

In about four weeks the first Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) will meet for one week of academic training at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz before continuing with archival research at the ICRC Archives in Geneva.The Research Academy addresses early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.

Poster GHRA

The GHRA received a huge amount of applications from an extremely talented group of scholars from more than fifteen different countries around the world. The selection committee considered each proposal very carefully and has selected these 12 participants for the GHRA 2015:

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JP Daughton on the Dark Roots of Humanitarianism

In a study of the history of the French colonial Congo-Océan Railway, the Stanford historian JP Daughton investigates how modern humanitarianism arose from the brutality of European colonialism.

You will find an interesting article on Daughton’s research @:

Essay: Frieden durch Krieg?

Sandrine Mayoraz, Frithjof Benjamin Schenk, and Ueli Mäder have just published the volume Hundert Jahre Basler Friedenskongress (1912-2012). Die erhoffte „Verbrüderung der Völker”, Basel/Zürich 2015. The edited volume is the result of an international conference held at the University of Basel from November 22 to 24, 2012 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Basel International Socialist Peace Congress. The complete German volume with various contribution on the question of war and peace is now available online @:


In my own contribution „Frieden durch Krieg? Zur Janusköpfigkeit militärischer Interventionspraxis im langen 19. Jahrhundert“ (Peace by War? The Janus-faced character of Military Intervention in the long 19th Century) I am focusing on the practice of humanitarian intervention throughout the long 19th century. The essay examines the question whether humanitarian interventions were able to contribute to international peacekeeping or whether they were not in fact an instrument of imperial power, under the guise of humanitarianism. Its aim is to consider the Janus-faced character of humanitarian intervention and to examine the consequences of this for international relations.

You will find my essay @:

The Future of the Past: Shining the Light of History on the Challenges Facing Principled Humanitarian Action

Cross-Posted from imperialglobalexeter

Andrew Thompson History Department, University of Exeter

Even as Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the movement’s Fundamental Principles, there is a palpable sense that they are at risk. Threatened not only by the resurgence of state sovereignty and proliferation of non-state armed groups, the very universality of the principles may be in question. As the twenty-first century draws on, are the principles of ‘impartiality’, ‘neutrality’ and ‘independence’ still fit for purpose as Western influence wanes and the nature of conflict itself rapidly evolves?

The Red Cross’ principles have marinated in a century and a half of humanitarian history. That history matters. The past helps us to understand how different types of threat to humanitarian principles have emerged from different types of conflict and geopolitical environments. History also sheds light on how, despite such obstacles, the principles came to acquire the public prominence and moral authority they currently possess.


Food distribution, Pakistan. ICRC / Muhammad, N.

Where did the Fundamental Principles come from?

The principles were first articulated by the Swiss jurist and co-founder of the international Red Cross, Gustave Moynier. His four principles of the 1870s ‒ ‘centralisation’, ‘foresight’, ‘mutuality’ and ‘solidarity’ ‒ were more firmly focused around the role of the national societies and their relation to the ICRC and each other.

Right from the get-go, the idea of giving aid based purely on the needs of the suffering, irrespective of religious, ethnic or political affiliation, was built into the Geneva Conventions. Article 6 of the 1864 Convention stated that wounded or sick combatants would be collected and cared for regardless of nationality.

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Humanitarianism & the Media


At St Antony’s College Oxford, the Richard von Weizsäcker fellow organizes a conference on humanitarianism and aid. The meeting takes place at the European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, on 19 -20 June 2015. It focuses on the media as an essential feature of the history of humanitarianism. Contributors discuss both the role of the media in humanitarian activities, and the imagery produced in print or on screen. Scholars from history, media studies, and anthropology present recent research with a view on the visual discourse, the meanings and materiality of the images since the beginning of the 20th century. Critically considering the medialisation of the humanitarian, they analyse the interaction between humanitarian agencies and media actors.

Speakers and topics:
(Detailed Programme Hum & Media 2015)

Johannes Paulmann (Oxford/ Mainz)

I Humanitarian Imagery

Katharina Stornig (Mainz)
Promoting Distant Children in Need: Christian Imagery in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Rose Holmes (Sussex)
‘Make the situation real to us without stressing the horrors': Children, photography and British humanitarianism in the Spanish Civil War

Daniel Palmieri (ICRC, Geneva)
Humanitarianism on the Screen: The ICRC Films from the 1920’s to the 1960’s

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Wolfgang Schmale: Europe and Human Rights in 2015

Cross-posted from Wolfgang Schmale’s new blog “Mein Europa”

Die Europäische Union braucht ein großes Ziel – dieses Ziel soll lauten: „Machen wir Europa zum Kontinent der Menschenrechte!“

[1] Geschichtlich stand hinter den Menschenrechten der Gedanke, Menschen vor denjenigen zu schützen, die Macht besaßen und die diese unter Außerachtlassung der Regeln des guten Regierens ausübten. Diese Auffassung lässt sich in Europa ohne weiteres bis in das Mittelalter zurückverfolgen. Das „gute Regieren“ oder, wie in der frühen Neuzeit, die „gute Policey“ traf als Anspruch nicht nur auf den Herrscher zu, sondern im Prinzip auf alle, die Macht besaßen, also etwa Grundherren, Feudalherren. Die zu respektierenden fundamentalen Regeln fand man im göttlichen Recht, im Naturrecht und in einer Reihe offenkundiger Notwendigkeiten, die sich in der Idee eines Rechts auf Subsistenzsicherung zusammenfassen lassen. Einem Bauern seinen Ochsen und Pflug wegen Schulden zu pfänden, verstieß nicht nur moralisch dagegen, sondern es gab fast überall auch schriftlich fixierte Rechtsnormen, also positives einklagbares Recht, das das verbot.

[2] Den Bevölkerungen war die Durchsetzung dieser Regeln zahllose, oft gewaltsame Konflikte sowie teure Gerichtsprozesse wert. Man konnte darüber „seine Armut verrechten“, wie es in der frühen Neuzeit so treffend formuliert wurde, sprich, selbst Menschen mit geringem Einkommen beteiligten sich am Widerstand gegen Unrecht.


[3] Ab der Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts wurde die rechtliche Substanz, die gemeint war, gelegentlich als „Menschenrecht“ bezeichnet, doch gängig und häufig wurde diese Bezeichnung erst im Zuge der Französischen Revolution. Sie ging mit einer Kanonbildung der Menschenrechte einher. Außerdem wurden die Regeln des guten Regierens auf die höchste Stufe von Verbindlichkeit und Verpflichtung angehoben – in Gestalt einer schriftlichen Verfassung, wie wir dies aus den nordamerikanischen Staaten, die sich zu den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika zusammenschlossen, als auch von Frankreich 1789-1791 kennen. Die Kombination all dieser Faktoren, die das moderne Verfassungswesen kennzeichnen, ist erst für das späte und revolutionäre 18. Jahrhundert charakteristisch, auch wenn die Geschichte eine lange Reihe von Fundamentalgesetzen (Magna Charta und viele andere) aufweist, die als ferne Vorläufer schriftlicher Verfassungen gelten können.

[4] Die Erkämpfung und Durchsetzung von Grund- und Menschenrechten war ein blutiger Prozess. In der Französischen Revolution brachte es einmal ein einfacher Soldat (Nationalgardist) auf den Begriff: „Das Blut der Freiheit“ (s. unten Dokumentation).

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Exhibition and Lecture Series: Eine „innertürkische” Verwaltungsangelegenheit?

Eine „innertürkische Verwaltungsangelegenheit“?

Osmanisch-deutsche Verflechtungen und die “Armenier-Greuel” im Ersten Weltkrieg

Ausstellung vom 23.04.2015 – 21.05.2015

an der JGU Mainz, Philosophicum,

Durchgangsbereich der Bereichsbibliothek

Öffnungszeiten: Montag – Freitag 08.00 – 22.00 Uhr

“Über die Armeniergreuel ist folgendes zu sagen: Unsere freundschaftlichen Beziehungen zur Türkei dürfen durch diese innertürkische Verwaltungsangelegenheit nicht nur nicht gefährdet, sondern im gegenwärtigen, schwierigen Augenblick nicht einmal geprüft werden. Deshalb ist es einstweilen Pflicht, zu schweigen.” Mit diesen Worten suchte das Kriegspresseamt des deutschen Kaiserreiches im Oktober 1915 eine Berichterstattung über die Massaker an der armenischen Bevölkerung des Osmanischen Reiches seit dem Frühjahr 1915 in deutschen Zeitungen und Zeitschriften zu verhindern.


Im Frühsommer 2015 jährt sich der Völkermord an den Armeniern zum hundertjährigen Gedenken. Die deutsch-osmanische Verflechtungsgeschichte der „Armeniergreuel“ ist jedoch weitgehend in Vergessenheit geraten. Ziel der Ausstellung ist es, die vielfältigen militärischen, ökonomischen und diplomatischen Verstrickungen des Deutschen Reichs in den Völkermord sowohl auf persönlicher wie systematischer Ebene zu rekonstruieren und damit auch eine unbekannte Facette deutsch-osmanischer Geschichte zugänglich zu machen.

Begleitet wird die Ausstellung von einer Vortragsreihe.

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New Book: Anti-liberal Europe

Dieter Gosewinkel (ed.), Anti-liberal Europe. A Neglected Story of Europeanization, Berghahn, New York/Oxford 2015.

“The history of modern Europe is often presented with the hindsight of present-day European integration, which was a genuinely liberal project based on political and economic freedom. Many other visions for Europe developed in the 20th century, however, were based on an idea of community rooted in pre-modern religious ideas, cultural or ethnic homogeneity, or even in coercion and violence. They frequently rejected the idea of modernity or reinterpreted it in an antiliberal manner. Anti-liberal Europe examines these visions, including those of anti-modernist Catholics, conservatives, extreme rightists as well as communists, arguing that antiliberal concepts in 20th-century Europe were not the counterpart to, but instead part of the process of European integration.”




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Conference: Does Human Rights Have a History?

Cross-posted from:

About the Conference: Does human rights have a history? As late as 1998 not a single reference to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights had appeared in any article of the American Historical Review. But by 2006 the field had become prominent enough for the President of the American Historical Association to claim “we are all historians of human rights.” In this recent and very rapid development of the field, the fundamental premises of how we conceive of a history of human rights remain in flux and must be reconsidered:  when were “human rights” invented and what were the major stages of the evolution of their different elements? Rights talk emerged in early modern natural law theory, if not before, and played a famous role in early modern revolutions. But while humanitarian agendas sprouted throughout modern history, the international human rights regime began to take root only in the 1940s, and exploded to public prominence in the 1970s.


Do we then tell the longue durée of human rights history as an evolutionary narrative or one of sharp disjunctures and discontinuities? There are also critical substantive issues that remain unresolved. What counts as human rights history? What rights at particular times and places have been seen as human rights and what has made them visible in those moments? What leads ordinary people to band together to found initiatives to monitor human rights violations? When and under what conditions have states propounded and conformed to crucial cosmopolitan norms? Are human rights a Western discourse or are they rooted in a broader array of geographical, gendered and cultural contexts?

This conference draws together leading historians of human rights working across time and space to address these urgent questions. In doing so it honors the contributions of Michael Geyer, Samuel N. Harper Professor of German and European History and the College and a founder of the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago, to the field of human rights history and to the development of interdisciplinary studies of human rights thought and practice at the University of Chicago.

Faculty Organizers PFCHR Faculty Director Mark Philip Bradley, Jane Dailey, Emily Osborn, Amy Dru Stanley, and Tara Zahra

Additional Support The University of Chicago Library, Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies (CEERES), Center for International Studies (CIS), Department of Anthropology, and Department of History

Conference Schedule See the presenter biographies here.

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Wann ist Krieg gerechtfertigt? Das Problem des ‚bellum iustum‘ in historischer und systematischer Perspektive

Kolloquium der Professur für Neuere Geschichte (Westeuropa) an der

Helmut‐Schmidt‐Universität Hamburg am 23.‐24. März 2015, Hamburg

lm Mittelpunkt des Kolloquiums steht die Frage nach dem Spannungsverhältnis zwischen kriegsregulierenden Normen und bellizistischer Realität: lnwieweit haben die diversen moralischen bzw. rechtlichen Restriktionen erlaubter Kriegführung im Laufe der Geschichte das Ausmaß kriegerischer Gewalt reduziert? Hat die zunehmende Kriminalisierung des Krieges im 20. Jahrhundert diesen wirklich eingehegt oder lediglich neue Legitimationsstrategien entstehen lassen? Sind es am Ende vielleicht gar nicht so sehr normative Grundsätze als vielmehr ordnungspolitische, ökonomische u.a. Systemeigenschaften, welche den Grad binnen- bzw. zwischenstaatlicher Friedfertigkeit bestimmen?


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Conference on Decolonization and Cold War Implications on War Crimes Trials in Asia, 1945-1954

Conference Report: “Rethinking Justice? Decolonization, Cold War, and Asian War Crimes Trials after 1945”, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg (organizer: Dr. Kerstin von ), October 26-29, 2014


The first day of the conference began on the evening of 26 October. Kerstin von Lingen, leader of JRG ‘Transcultural Justice’ and principal organizer of the conference, gave an introductory speech where she highlighted how war crimes trials in Asia offered a crucial legal, political, and moral-ideological watershed through which some of the initial contestations of decolonization and Cold War were played out. She argued that the trials should not be seen in isolation, but as part of this broader global politics, and also as an integral stage in the emergence of new universalistic norms of international humanitarian law. Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz) suggested that in spite of the emergence of these new norms, the traditional colonial powers (he took the specific examples of Britain and France) were reluctant to accept these standards, since their acceptance would have restricted the potential to use violent force to maintain domination in the colonies in Africa and Asia.

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The new issue contains a diverse suite of articles — Jessica Whyte’s fascinating engagement with the theme of Robinson Crusoe in debates around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an example with a rich earlier philosophical history; Johanna Siméant’s probing sociological examination of the rise of “advocacy” in international affairs; and Peter Slezkine’s breakthrough account of the origins of Human Rights Watch. They are joined by Greg Girard’s photo essay “Phantom Shanghai” and the regular essay reviews, including Laleh Khalili’s fabulous reading of recent books on counterinsurgent warfare and Patrick W. Kelly’s historiographical digest of work on Latin America and human rights.



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History in the Making: An @ICRC Interview with Andrew Thompson

Cross-Posted from CIGH Exeter 


ICRC Headquarters, Geneva.

Malcolm Lucard
Cross-posted from Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine

Internal records from the ICRC’s archives concerning the conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s shed light on a decisive era for humanitarian action.

In a small room in the basement of ICRC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, historian Andrew Thompson methodically pours through folders full of documents — typewritten mission reports, confidential telegrams and hand-written letters — never before seen by people outside the ICRC.

“It is a process of discovery,” says Thompson, a professor of history at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. “There is a sense of expectation and anticipation not knowing what is going to be there. For a historian, it’s a bit like opening a birthday present, or like going into a candy shop.”

The ‘candy shop’ in this case is the ICRC archives, where Thompson is exploring 40- to 50-year-old records to be released to the public in January 2015 under the ICRC’s policy of making internal documents public in blocks of ten years once 40 years have passed since the events they describe.

Aside from exciting Thompson’s intellectual curiosity, these records offer a deeper understanding of conflicts going on between 1965 and 1975. In particular, they give insight into an area of great interest to Thompson, who took an early look at the records in order to pursue research on the evolution of international humanitarian law and human rights law as they pertain to the treatment of political detainees in non-international conflicts.

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