Crisis in the Middle East: Humanitarianism, Religion and Diplomacy, c. 1860-1970

Conference at the Leibniz-Institute of European History, 7 – 9 February 2018

The third conference organised by the Network »Engaging Europe in the Arab World: Missionaries and Humanitarianism in the Middle East 1850s to 1970s« focuses on crises in the Middle East and the relation between humanitarianism, religion, and diplomacy. Participating scholars discuss the period from the Ottoman Empire to the Second World War and its aftermath. The panels analyse humanitarianism and missions in the context of imperial troubles, intervention, the European mandate system and nation-building. A round table with Eva Svoboda , Senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Jonathan Benthall, Director Emeritus of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Research Fellow at UCL, will conclude the proceedings discussing scholarship and humanitarian practice.

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New Book: Humanity. A History of European Concepts in Practice From the Sixteenth Century to the Present

This edited volume investigates the development of the concepts and practices of “humanity” from the sixteenth century to the present. By choosing a longue-durée approach the book analyzes how shifting concepts of humanity shaped various practices and at the same time how ideas themselves were informed by these practices in the course of four hundred years. As humanity is evoked in a remarkable array of themes, the contributors deliberately focus on issues such as humanism, colonial expansion and imperialism, missions, abolitionism, international humanitarian law, humanitarianism, human rights, charity and philanthropy. In their understanding, these are crucial arenas, in which concepts and practices of humanity were sustainably shaped, defined, questioned and reconfigured. While there are a huge number of individual studies on each theme, the book seeks to connect these various fields and analyze their entanglements under the overarching theme of the idea of humanity.


Accordingly, the volume regards the notion of humanity not as static and related only to one specific century, but as a dynamic concept, which emerged in the course of several centuries. One of the central aims is to show its procedural and evolutionary character with all its ambiguities and inconsistencies in the context of Europe itself as well as the continent’s relation to the wider world. Beyond Europe, the volume covers another three different geographical regions – namely Africa, America, and Asia, thus seeking to combine methodologically European history with approaches of transnational and global history.

Being aware of the multidimensional character of the topic and underlining the enrichment of research from different perspectives, the book adopts an interdisciplinary approach. Beyond doubt in the debates around the idea of humanity, religion played a remarkable role. Jewish, Catholic as well as Protestant teaching shaped the notion in many significant ways. It served for various actors such as philosophers, reformists, missionaries, abolitionists, and legal scholars frequently as a fundamental source for inspiring their theories and influencing their action. For this reason, theologians and historians in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland provide, for the first time together, innovative perspectives on the European concepts of humanity in practice. Thus, the book promotes an integrative approach to the theme by combining not only different geographical regions but also various historical epochs and academic disciplines in a single volume.

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