Natalie Klein-Kelly, DOT TO DOT: Exploring humanitarian activities in the early Nineteenth Century

Natalie Klein-Kelly, Fellow of the GHRA 2017

DOT TO DOT: Exploring humanitarian activities in the early Nineteenth Century through tracing prehistories of the Red Cross Movement in Geneva

Histories of humanitarianism often cite two specific examples of nineteenth century humanitarianism: the latter parts of slave abolition movements and the founding of the Red Cross in Geneva in 1863. Besides these, particularly for the early part of the century, specific examples of humanitarian activities remain rare, with general references to philanthropic as well as social and religious reform movements prevailing. I would like to argue here that this is because humanitarian endeavours in the early Nineteenth Century in Europe and North America developed in local contexts, making it difficult and cumbersome to join the various ʿdotsʾ of humanitarian activities that existed. By linking such ʿdotsʾ – like doing children’s ʿdot to dotʾ drawing, hence the title of this blog post – a more precise picture of early humanitarianism might emerge. This blog post will demonstrate the benefits of such an approach though two concrete examples: the connections between the founding of the Red Cross Movement and an early foreign aid movement 40 years earlier, both in the locality of Geneva.

The first ʿgroup of dotsʾ concerns the philhellenic activities undertaken by private Geneva citizens in the course of the 1820s in support of the Greeks in their War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. To be precise, two different Geneva Greek Committees were set up, the first active in 1822-1823, and a second founded in 1825 and active until the Battle of Navarino in October 1827. The leading force in the latter Committee was the wealthy Geneva citizen, Jean-Gabriel Eynard (1772-1863), who had been to the Vienna Congress a few years earlier. He was joined by 26 others, including the writers and politicians J.C.L. Simonde de Sismondi (1773-1842) and Etienne Dumont (1759-1829). This second Committee used the donations collected in Geneva and elsewhere to send shiploads of food and ammunition to support the fighting Greeks. These shipments were accompanied by representatives of the Committee, including the doctor, Louis-André Gosse (1801-1873). To stress, the label ‘humanitarian’ only partly fits these foreign aid undertakings, particularly given the military support and the parallel developmental focus that can be found.

The second ʿdotsʾ is better known: the 1863 founding of the Red Cross Movement initiated by five Geneva citizens including Henri Dunant (1828-1910), Gustav Moynier (1826-1910), General Guillaume-Henri Dufour (1787-1875), and Dr Louis Appia (1818-1889). Having witnessed the suffering of wounded soldiers in the battle of Solferino in 1859, the Geneva businessman Dunant published a pamphlet calling for international action to ensure care and protection of wounded soldiers and their helpers. The young Geneva lawyer Moynier, an acquaintance of Dunant, took this idea to the Geneva Society for Public Utility, whose president at this time was Dufour. Here, a sub-committee to implement Dunant’s ideas was formed, leading to the first international conference held in Geneva in 1863.

While nearly 40 years apart, these two ʿgroups of dotsʾ have specific links. An early type of photograph exists of the two key protagonists, Eynard and Dunant, dating from the early 1850s.

Jean-Gabriel Eynard in the middle and Henry Dunant at the left, Bibliotheque de Geneve.

Eynard was an early enthusiast of daguerreotypes, taking a few hundred in the 1840s and 1850s, generally of his extended family. Dunant was a friend of Ernest de Traz (1830-1900), also on this daguerreotype, a great-nephew of Eynard. De Traz and Dunant commenced religious meetings of young men in the late 1840s, leading to the formation of the “Union Chrétienne des Jeunes Gens de Geneva” in the early 1850s. In addition, occasional correspondence between Dunant and Eynard’s wife, Anna Eynard Lullin (1793-1868) has survived, for example regarding her support for the 1863 Red Cross conference (BPU Ms 2109 f. 57, 179). Eynard’s son-in-law and nephew, Charles Eynard-Eynard (1808-1876) also corresponded with Dunant throughout the 1860s (ibid., f. 6, 288, 296 etc.). Charles Eynard appears to have been close to Dunant through their joint religious affiliation to the ‘Reveil’, the Geneva evangelist movement of the mid-century (BPU Ms fr 2115 H).

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“On site, in time”: Helsinki by Bernhard Gißibl

Regarding our new IEG open access publication “On site, in time” here is Bernhard Gißibl’s article on Helsinki, in which he focuses on the CSCE process.

Cross-posted from: http://en.ieg-differences.eu/on-site-in-time/bernhard-gissibl-helsinki/

Conference diplomacy and the CSCE process (constellations)

In the history of international conference diplomacy, Helsinki symbolizes détente, cooperation, and human rights during the Cold War. The reason for this is the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), whose Final Act was signed in Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall on August 1st, 1975 by the leaders of 33 European states, the USA, and Canada.

Helmut Schmidt, Erich Honecker, Gerald Ford and Bruno Kreisky at the CSCE Summit in 1975 in Helsinki, Finland.

This initiated a dialogue and negotiation process on confidence-building measures and principles between the blocs of the Cold War, which was designated the CSCE or “Helsinki process”. At the same time, the conference location signifies the role that neutral and non-aligned countries played as catalysts, facilitators and – in the case of Finland – as intermediaries of the security conference.

Cold War and détente in Europe (differences)

The CSCE conference had its roots in the superpowers’ efforts to ease tensions in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. By the early 1970s, conditions had changed: NATO had adopted a new strategy of easing tensions (“détente”), while the Federal Republic of Germany had concluded the Eastern treaties and recognized the GDR. In July 1973, the foreign ministers of all 33 European countries (with the exception Albania), as well as the USA and Canada, were able to begin with preliminary negotiations on security and cooperation in Europe.

It is noteworthy that the conference proceedings recognized the full equality of all participating countries – irrespective of their membership to the blocs or the hegemony of the USA and the USSR as superpowers. Moreover, the conference was conducted based on the principle of consensus: Unanimity was not required for any resolutions; it was sufficient if no significant objections were made.

Between July 1973 and July 1975, diplomats and experts worked out the text of the Final Act.[1] It contained a set of principles concerning intergovernmental behaviour. Along with sovereignty and the mutual non-interference of the states, the list included in particular “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”

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GHRA fellow Sam de Schutter on “Disability, development and humanitarianism”

Cross-posted from: http://rethinkingdisability.net/disability-development-and-humanitarianism-the-global-humanitarianism-research-academy/

Today “the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war”, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs recently declared. This statement shows that humanitarianism is very much alive today, but that it apparently also has a history. But why am I writing about that on a blog related to the history of disability? That is because I participated in the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA), organized by the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the University of Exeter, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Over the span of two weeks in July, spent both in Mainz and Geneva, this event brought together thirteen scholars from all over the world working on issues related to humanitarianism, international humanitarian law and human rights. I was lucky to be one of them, and got inspired to write this short blog about it.

So what was I doing there? My research is on the history of development interventions by UN agencies, aimed at people with disabilities in Tanzania and Kenya. I can certainly relate my subject to human rights, being part of a project that aims at unravelling how disability rose to the mainstream of international human rights discourses. But humanitarianism? I must admit that I did not have a clear idea about what humanitarianism entails before I joined this academy. During the two weeks of discussions and lectures however, it soon became clear that maybe no one has, or at least that different people have very different ideas about it. Certain themes and concepts nonetheless consistently appear throughout different writings on the history of humanitarianism, and I can certainly relate my own research to them: fostering sympathy across borders, mobilizing people through transnational organizations, lobbying for state interventions, and especially the relief of ‘the suffering of distant others’. It thus became clear that looking at my research through the lens of humanitarianism might be a fruitful exercise. I was however equally intrigued by the questions whether and what a disability perspective could contribute to the history of humanitarianism. It was mainly during the second week of the academy that I started to formulate a preliminary answer to these questions.
It is really this second week that sets the GHRA apart from any other, more traditional ‘summer school’. We spent this week in Geneva, mainly at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). There was a mixture of lectures by senior ICRC staff members and research time, spent either in the ICRC archives, the library or any of the other international archives that Geneva has to offer. Since the ICRC has only opened its archives until 1976, I focused on the collections held at the library and at the audiovisual archives. There, I discovered the history of the ICRC’s involvement with disability, a history that points us to the unique perspective disability can offer to the history of humanitarianism.

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“On site, in time”: Chios by Fabian Klose

Regarding our new IEG open access publication “On site, in time” here is my article on the island of Chios, in which I focus on the massacre of Chios in 1822 and its impact on international interventionism.

Cross-posted from: http://en.ieg-differences.eu/on-site-in-time/fabian-klose-chios/

The Massacre of Chios in 1822 (constellations)

During the year 1822, European capitals were inundated with reports about a massacre of the Christian population of Chios. The island, a few kilometres from the mainland of Asia Minor in the eastern Aegean, and the supposed birthplace of the ancient poet Homer, had become the scene of one of the bloodiest episodes of the Greek War of Independence. At the time, Greece belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Starting in March 1821, an armed uprising against the rule of the Sultan emerged in different places in Greece. In the reconquest of Chios in April 1822, Ottoman troops operated with extreme brutality. They pillaged and plundered the Greek settlements, murdering in the process an estimated 25,000 residents and abducting more 45,000 to the slave markets of the Ottoman Empire. While the Greek independence movement itself relied on merciless warfare and likewise perpetrated a series of massacres of the Muslim population, the European reporting concentrated almost exclusively on the Ottoman atrocities against the Christian population.

Such messages inspired the French painter Eugène Delacroix to create the historical painting “The Massacre of Chios.”[1] Presented to a wider public for the first time in 1824 during the Parisian salons, it also caused a great sensation beyond the borders of France. The emotionally charged depiction of the Greeks, who had been at the mercy of the Ottoman soldiery, drew on a humanitarian narrative that had already more or less developed in the course of the campaigns against the slave trade. With his visualization of suffering, Delacroix intended to arouse the concern and sympathy of the viewers for the fate of the Greeks and thereby to mobilize political support for the Greek struggle for independence.

Eugène Delacroix, Le Massacre de Scio, oil/canvas, 1824

Europe’s solidarity and the stigmatization of the Ottoman Empire (differences)

The events on Chios provoked (not least thanks to Delacroix’ painting) a sense of outrage throughout Europe and a feeling of solidarity with the Greek striving for freedom virtually throughout the entire continent. The Philhellenism, which originated in the late 18th century from a cultural enthusiasm  for ancient Greece, now took on tremendous political relevance in the wake of the reporting on the massacre. Philhellenic committees – initially in German speaking countries, then in France and Great Britain as well as other European countries – began to form to recruit volunteers to fight in Greece, to collect funds for the insurgents, and, in general, to mobilize public Support. Continue reading

“On site, in time”: Nantes by Thomas Weller

Regarding our new IEG open access publication “On site, in time” here is Thomas Weller’s article on Nantes, in which he focuses on the issues of religious freedom and slavery.

Cross-posted from: http://en.ieg-differences.eu/on-site-in-time/thomas-weller-nantes/

The Edict of Nantes

Peace by Edict (constellations)

On April 13th, 1598 in the city of Nantes, King Henry IV of France signed a document ending a series of religious wars that had devastated the country and brought the French monarchy to the point of ruin. In the form of Calvinism, Protestantism had been attracting increasing numbers of followers in France by the mid-16th century. These Huguenots, as they were called, were persecuted by the Catholic Church and the French Crown. Intensified by a dynastic crisis after the death of King Henry II (1559) the conflict escalated to a veritable civil war. One of the bloody climaxes of this more than 30-year struggle was the so-called St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), in which between 3,000 and 4,000 Protestants died in Paris alone.

The Edict of Nantes

When Henry of Navarre, the Huguenot military leader, succeeded the murdered Henry III to the throne, the conflict appeared again to worsen. Only after the new king converted to Catholicism in 1593 and was accepted by the Catholics was the path open to a peaceful solution to the conflict. Five years later, Henry IV guaranteed his erstwhile fellow Protestants a series of privileges that henceforth would ensure a non-violent coexistence for the two Christian confessions under the protection of the Crown.

Confessional Division and Political Unity (differences)

With the Edict of Nantes, which in large part resembled earlier so-called pacification edicts, France’s confessional division was reinforced. The ideal of religious unity in the commonwealth was sacrificed in the name of political unity. Although the document was in fact the result of negotiations between the warring parties, it took the form of a royal amnesty. Thus the Edict’s legal form made it in principle revocable, even though its text called it “perpetual” and “irrevocable”.[1] On this basis, it was possible to pacify the violent conflict for nearly 100 years and establish rules for the coexistence of Catholics and Protestants that were accepted by both sides.

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New IEG Open Access Publication “On site, in time”

Historically, how were difference and inequality negotiated in Europe? What were the parts played by religion, society and politics? “On site, in time” takes a look at events that took place in European locations and that exemplify Europe¹s historical development since 1500. The c. 60 articles illustrate the various and conflict-ridden ways of negotiating differences and inequality. They depict strategies that were developed to promote, present, preserve, mitigate or abolish difference. Such strategies may include discussions, peaceful solutions and aid as well migration, mission and protest or even exclusion, war and destruction.

Negotiating differences in Europe, ed. for the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) by Joachim Berger, Irene Dingel and Johannes Paulmann, Mainz 2016.

The open access publication “On site, in time” is a product of the current research programme “Negotiating differences in Modern Europe” of the Leibnitz Institute of European History (IEG). Its aim is, on the one hand, to provide basic information on how differences were negotiated in Modern Europe, and on the other hand to make the research carried out at the IEG understandable and available to a wider audience. “On site, in time” is therefore meant for everyone with a distinct interest in history, religion, politics, and societal questions.

In the next couple of weeks I will present some examples of these articles directly related to the history of humanitarianism and human rights here on hhr!

In the meantime enjoy discovering the new IEG open access publication “On site, in time”!

Antonio Donini on “The crisis of multilateralism and the future of humanitarian action”

Regarding recent developments in international politics Antonio Donini has published an interesting piece on the crisis of multilateralism and the consequences for humanitarian action on Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).

Here is his opinion on the topic “The crisis of multilateralism and the future of humanitarian action”

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Antonio Donini is Research Associate at the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Programme for the Study of Global Migration and also senior researcher at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University. He has worked for 26 years in the United Nations in research, evaluation, and humanitar­ian capacities. His last post was as Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (1999-2002).

JHIL Article: Human Rights for and against Empire

In March 2014 Oliver Dörr (Osnabrück), Marc Frey (Munich), and Jörn Axel Kämmerer (Hamburg) organized the Hamburg Symposium on Colonialism and International Law at the Bucerius Law School. Some of papers of the conference have now been published as articles in the new issue of the Journal of the history of International Law.

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My own article deals with the topic of  Human Rights for and against Empire – Legal and Public Discourses in the Age of Decolonisation (JHIL, Vol. 18, 2016, p. 317-338). Against the background of an ongoing debate about the role of human rights in the age of decolonization this essay approaches the issue from two different angles. It concentrates on the paradoxical situation that anti-colonial movements as well as colonial powers instrumentalized international human rights documents such as the Genocide Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the European Conventions on Human Rights for achieving their political goals. In combining legal and public discourses in a significant way both sides accused each other of gross human rights violations while at the same time presenting themselves as respecting and even guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Especially during the course of the wars of decolonization after 1945 this phenomena became obvious in various diplomatic debates at the United Nations and made universal rights a diplomatic pawn in international debates.

For this recent issue of the JHIL see:

http://www.brill.com/journal-history-international-law-revue-dhistoire-du-droit-international

New Special Issue on “Humanitarianism”

Maria Framke and Joël Glasman have recently edited a special issue on “Humanitarianism” for the German historical journal “Werkstatt.Geschichte”.

Contributions in both English and German by Semih Çelik, Alexandra Pfeiff, Heike Wieters and Florian Hannig shed light on different aspect of humanitarian action in the international shpere in the nineteenth and twentieh century and promise new insights into the global history of humanitarianism:

WerkstattGeschichte Heft 68, humanitarismus

Editorial by Maria Framke, Joël Glasman and the editorial staff

Semih Çelik: Between History of Humanitarianism and Humanitarianization of History. A Discussion on Ottoman Help for the Victims of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1852

Alexandra Pfeiff: Das Chinesische Rote Kreuz und die Rote Swastika Gesellschaft. Eine vergleichende Perspektive auf chinesischen Humanitarismus

Heike Wieters: Krisen, Kompromisse, Kalter Krieg. Die amerikanische NGO CARE und die Anfänge humanitärer Nahrungsmittelhilfe in Ägypten, 1954-1958

Florian Hannig: Mitleid mit Biafranern in Westdeutschland. Eine Historisierung von Empathie

For further information on the volume “Humanitarismus”, volume 68 (2015), see http://www.hsozkult.de/journal/id/zeitschriftenausgaben-9337 or the link of the Journal “Werkstatt.Geschichte” @ http://www.werkstattgeschichte.de/

ICRC Report on the Effects of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima 1945

Cross-posted from icrchistory

Rapport rédigé en octobre 1945 par Fritz Bilfinger, délégué du CICR au Japon à cette époque, concernant les effets du bombardement atomique sur la population d’Hiroshima.

This report on the effects of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima was written on October 1945 by Fritz Bilfinger, ICRC delegate in Japan

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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 @:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/april/humanitarian-congo-daughton-042315.html

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 @:

http://sozarch7.uzh.ch/daten/Friedenskongress_Gesamtwerk.pdf

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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 @: http://sozarch7.uzh.ch/daten/Friedenskongress_Klose.pdf

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.

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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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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.

Menschenrechte-Paris-Place-de-la-Republique-web1-640x240

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

Cross-Posted from CIGH Exeter 

ICRC

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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