Call for Papers: Women, Gender Roles and Humanitarian Aid in the Greater War (1912-1925)

24-25 June 2020, University Foundation (Brussels)

Female-centred humanitarian aid has gained traction in recent years. In 2016, the UN Population Fund stated that ‘to succeed in building a more stable world, leaders will have to address the needs and protect the rights of affected women and girls, and incorporate their leadership and knowledge into all plans.’ In response, humanitarian agencies have launched a number of initiatives that empower girls through education, create cash-for-work programs for women and localise long-term aid in communities through female involvement.

While these issues might seem new and timely, women have shaped humanitarian agendas for more than a century. In the era of World War One, when Europe was also a recipient of help, numerous international aid organisations such as the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Save the Children tried to combat poverty, illness and trauma through the education and participation of European girls, women and mothers. The international, national and local civilian aid programs were often carried out by women. Female volunteers (society ladies and nobility members) laboured alongside professionals (home economists, nutritionists, nurses, physicians, social workers and librarians). These relief workers struggled with some of the same challenges humanitarian workers face today: how to reach crisis-affected civilians and particularly women in the private sphere of the home? How, when and where are traditional gender roles maintained, reinforced or disrupted by helping women and employing female humanitarian workers? How to push forward, fundraise for and carry out female oriented humanitarian projects in male dominated organisations and societies?

The two-day conference Women, Gender Roles and Humanitarian Aid in the Greater War will examine these and other questions by looking at the specific humanitarian programs for women and girls in Europe during and after the First World War. We look for contributions that analyse the nature of the programs by and/or for women and girls – both internationally and locally. We especially welcome presentations that go beyond Western Europe. It is envisaged that a selection of conference papers will be published in a special issue.  

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Doppelter Blick auf die Geschichte des Völkerrechts

Presseinformation vom 16.01.2020,

Der Historiker Fabian Klose und der Völkerrechtler Claus Kreß begründen Kooperation über die Geschichte des Völkerrechts. Das Projekt startet im April mit einem Seminar für Studierende beider Fächer.

Humanitäre Intervention, Kolonialismus, Freiheitskriege – ein Teil der Geschichte des Völkerrechts ist die Geschichte der großen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen Staaten. Was früher das ius in bello, das Kriegsvölkerrecht war, das hat sich bis heute zum Humanitären Völkerrecht entwickelt. Professor Dr. Fabian Klose, neuer Lehrstuhlinhaber für Internationale Geschichte und Historische Friedens- und Konfliktforschung und Professor Dr. Claus Kreß, Völkerrechtler und Direktor des Institute for International Peace and Security Law gehen das Thema nun gemeinsam an. Beide wollen langfristig in Forschung und Lehre kooperieren. „In Versailles saßen die Deutschen noch auf der Anklagebank“, erklärt der Völkerrechtler Kreß. „Mehr als 70 Jahre später war Deutschland auf einmal eine Kraft, die die Entwicklung des Völkerrechts forciert hat.“ Jeder Staat weltweit hat seine eigene Haltung zum Humanitären Völkerrecht und zum internationalen Strafgerichtshof entwickelt. „Das kann ein Rechtswissenschaftler zwar ansatzweise beantworten, letztlich aber viel besser, wenn er mit einem Historiker zusammenarbeitet, der die jeweilige rechtspolitische Haltung in ihren größeren Kontext einzubetten versteht.“

„Den HistorikerInnen fehlt häufig die allerletzte völkerrechtliche Expertise. Wenn man aber mit jemanden wie Claus Kreß ein derartiges  Kooperationsprojekt starten kann, dann ist das ein großer Gewinn“, so Klose.

Die Zusammenarbeit wird auf drei Säulen ruhen: Forschung, Lehre und einer neuen Vortragsreihe mit internationalen Gastwissenschaftler und Gastwissenschaftlerinnen. „Wir sind jetzt startklar und können den Studierenden nun unser erstes Seminar ankündigen“, sagt Kreß: Für das Sommersemester 2020 bieten Klose und Kreß ein interdisziplinäres Seminar zur Geschichte des Völkerrechts: „Vom Kriegsrecht zum Humanitären Völkerrecht? Das Völkerrecht der bewaffneten Konflikte vom 19. bis 21. Jahrhundert“.
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CfP: Law in Transnational Spaces. Cross-border Biographies in Legal History in the 19th and 20th Century

Writing transnational history comes with its own set of unique requirements. It is challenging to construct a coherent narrative out of the numerous factors involved. A biographical approach is one possibility to operationalize research on transnational networks and institutions. Biographies reveal individuals’ assumptions and attitudes, help contextualize their debates and explain the historical change of norms in their local context.

This also applies to legal histories investigating interactions, entanglements and the circulation of legal knowledge across national borders. The history of international law is incomplete without transnational actors shaping it. Most prominently, recent scholarship has engaged with the question how émigré jurists (most of them Jewish) have influenced the development of international criminal and human rights law in the mid-twentieth century. This has opened up new perspectives on how the individual experience of exile and juridical concepts have influence each other.

Transnational actors were not only significant on the international level, but developed a domestic momentum as well. Transnational reform movements have influenced the discourse on national criminal law. Zooming in on the individuals who shaped these discussions in transnational settings helps to complicate narratives about the seemingly progressive juridification and humanisation of international relations. It reveals the actors’ complex and sometimes even competing interests and underlying ideas about law. This enables research analysing actors’ positions in structures of power as well as gender and race relations.

The workshop “Law in Transnational Spaces” on 19 and 20 March 2020, in Berlin invites junior researchers to critically engage with actor-centred approaches in transnational legal history, in particular biographies. It offers the opportunity to discuss research projects that use a biographical lens. More specifically, the following questions might be tackled in the papers:

  • What methodological challenges result from a biographical approach to transnational legal history?
  • Were transnational legal networks a resource for people who came from what was perceived as “periphery”, or did they manifest existing power dynamics?
  • What influence did transnational networks have on women engaging in legal debates?
  • What resources did émigré lawyers have to participate in transnational discussions and legal networks and shape the history of law?

The workshop is part of the research project “The London Moment”, funded by the Volkswagen-Stiftung, at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Papers should be based on original material and 20 minutes in length. Accommodation during the workshop and travel expenses within Europe will be covered within reasonable limits. Interested scholars are invited to submit an abstract of 300 words and a short CV to by 31 January 2020.