Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2015 – Week 1

Andrew Thompson

Cross-posted from Humanitarianism & Human Rights

After the first part the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2015 at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz the next week of academic training will take place at the Archives of International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

Participants of the GHRA 2015
Participants of the GHRA 2015

On Day One recent research and fundamental concepts of global humanitarianism were critically reviewed. Participants discussed crucial texts on the historiography of humanitarianism and human rights. Themes included the historical emergence of humanitarianism since the eighteenth century and the troubled relationship between humanitarianism, human rights, and humanitarian intervention. Further, twentieth century conjunctures of humanitarian aid and the colonial entanglements of human rights were discussed. Finally, recent scholarship on the genealogies of the politics of humanitarian protection and human rights since the 1970s was assessed, also with a view on the challenges for the 21st century. Continue reading “Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2015 – Week 1”

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

ICRC 50th anniversary
Food distribution, Pakistan. ICRC / Muhammad, N.

Andrew Thompson
History Department, University of Exeter

Cross-posted from the Humanitarian Practice Network

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.

Where did the Fundamental Principles come from? Continue reading “The Future of the Past: Shining the Light of History on the Challenges Facing Principled Humanitarian Action”

7 Things You Should Know in the Wake of Charlie Hebdo

Photo from the January 11th National Unity march in Paris
National Unity march, Paris, 11 Jan. 2015.

Prof Charles Forsdick
Leadership Fellow, AHRC Translating Cultures

Prof Andrew Thompson
Leadership Fellow, AHRC Care for the Future
Director, Centre for Imperial and Global History

1. Charlie Hebdo is part of a long tradition of dissent in France. Its genealogy can be traced back to the satirical press at the time of the French Revolution. In February 2006, Charlie Hebdo shot to global prominence with its depictions of the prophet Mohammed. But since its launch, the anti-establishment magazine has had plenty of other targets in its sights. Hara Kiri, the publication banned in 1970 for its irreverent take on the death of Charles de Gaulle (and which Charlie Hebdo succeeded) was firmly opposed to French colonialism, particularly during the final stages of the Algerian War of Independence. And much of that French empire was of course in the Muslim world. Jean Cabut (known as ‘Cabu’), cartoonist and shareholder at Charlie Hebdo, a founder of Hara Kiri, and a victim of the 7 January 2015 shootings, linked his own politicization and pacifism to a period of conscription in Algeria in the 1950s. It was also while a conscript in Algeria that Wolinski, another victim of the killings, first came across an advert for Hara Kiri that attracted him to the publication. For more on the history of Charlie Hebdo and its predecessors, see the Exeter Centre for Imperial and Global History.

2. British and French laws on racial and religious discrimination differ in key respects. In Britain, legislation relating to incitement to hatred is applicable to all faiths and creeds and rooted in a multiculturalist tradition. In France, the situation is more complex. Although the offense of blasphemy was abolished during the Revolution, the penal code and press laws relating to freedom of expression still prohibit defamatory communication, or that which incites ethnic or religious discrimination. Legislation passed in France in the 1990s also outlaws declarations that seek to justify or deny crimes against humanity, most notably the Holocaust. In 2007, a French court clearedCharlie Hebdo and its director Philippe Val of defamation charges – filed by the Paris Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France – relating to the magazine’s re-publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a number of people have been charged with and convicted for ‘defending terrorism’, under legislation that removes the focus from laws relating to freedom of the press to the criminal code. The tension between such convictions and the commitment to freedom of expression has not passed without comment.

3. Britain and France are still struggling to escape their colonial pasts. This is not only true of how parts of British and French society view immigrants but equally how many immigrants view them. The shanty towns which housed many Algerian immigrants in France after the Second World War were terrible places to live. They were regarded by the French authorities as a danger zones and colonial officials were brought back from North Africa to monitor the conditions affecting Algerian immigrants and the political threat they represented. The association of such precarious housing with marginalization continued until at least the 1970s, and some argue that the housing situation of several migrant communities in France still today reveals continuity between the post-war bidonvilles and the contemporary banlieues. Britain never developed the equivalent of shanty towns, although first generation immigrants from its former colonies struggled to gain access to social housing and often had to rent rooms in dilapidated properties in run-down inner city areas.

4. Despite the recent ramping up of political rhetoric on immigration it is worth reminding ourselves that politicians have not always pandered to public prejudices. Take the classic case in Britain. During the heightened racial tensions of the 1960s, Enoch Powell delivered his famous and inflammatory “Rivers of Blood” speech, a widely publicized attack on the levels of immigration which deliberately cast doubt on the capacity of immigrants to integrate. But at precisely the same time Britain’s first Minister of Immigration, Maurice Foley, was touring the country, warning of the dangers of the growth of extremism. Foley drew attention to the fact that in many parts of Britain immigrants had largely been ignored and abandoned. He called for a common humanity, especially greater respect for immigrant’s own traditions and culture. Similarly in France, two decades later in the 1980s amidst renewed controversy over immigration, the rise of the Front National was challenged by SOS-Racisme, an anti-racist group founded in 1984. Many SOS-Racisme activists have since become prominent if not uncontroversial PS politicians: Harlem Désir, for a time First Secretary, is currently the French Secretary of State for European Affairs; Malek Boutih, former president, is an MP. SOS-Racisme, although not escaping criticism for its Republican and assimilationist stance, has played a key role fighting racial discrimination. It regularly acts as plaintiff in discrimination trials and actively challenging prejudice in both social and legal spheres.

5. The dynamics of the debate about immigration in Britain and France share more in common than we care to admit. Debates regarding French republican identity and British multiculturalism relate to the political will to move beyond a rhetoric of integration to affect a genuine accommodation of migrant communities. In France, the rigidity of a centralized republican model that requires assimilation is countered by an alternative notion of a ‘république métissée’ [hybridized Republic] that maintains core values whilst accepting the necessity of adaptation to twenty-first century cultural shifts and population flows. In Britain, the multi-cultural model is increasingly discredited in the eyes of many because it is said to encourage cultural separation. Repeated calls for “core British values” are offered as an antidote. But when asked to define those values, there is perhaps some irony in the fact that “tolerance” is often top of the list. In Britain and France, some critics of current government policy discern a persistent structural racism with colonial roots.

6. The flashpoints between migrant communities and the rest of British or French society have changed considerably over the last half century. Inter-racial relationships and mixed-marriages were once of far greater concern. Today the markers of integration (or its perceived absence) are more likely to be Islamic customs and practices (codes of dress, treatment of women, religious imagery), attitudes to which may differ among Muslims as well as between the Muslim and non-Muslim parts of the population. In France, intermarriage was met with hostility in the earlier part of the twentieth century, especially after the First World War. Attitudes have since changed. The 1999 census suggests that 38% and 34% of male and female married immigrants, respectively, are intermarried (including around 30% of those of North African heritage). A recent study has indicated that despite perceptions of its active multiculturalism, Britain may in fact have less immigrant assimilation through marriage than is sometimes suggested. Britain has a lower number of mixed marriages than France: it was reported that 8.8% of British marriages include one foreign-born partner compared with 11.8% in France.

7. There are a lot of myths about immigrants not speaking the language of their host country that recent data dispels. The 2011 census in England and Wales has allowed detailed mapping of linguistic diversity – in particular the super-diversity associated with many urban wards. The census revealed that, of the 8% (4.2 million) of residents aged three years and above with a main language other than English, 79% (3.3 million) could speak English very well or well; only 0.3% of the population (138,000) cannot speak English, with the majority of these likely to be recent arrivals. Comparable data for France is not available as national statistics are not permitted to reflect markers of ethnic diversity. The 1999 census nevertheless posed questions to a sample of 380,000 adult respondents about their family situation, including one relating to the languages in which their parents spoke to them before the age of five. The results suggested that 940,000 people consider Arabic to be their mother tongue, but these figures do not capture actual language practice and only reflect the activity of those born before 1981. In both national contexts, it is clear that acquisition of English or French remains a key element of social cohesion, although, for differing reasons, multilingualism is still seen as more of an impediment than an asset.

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

ICRC Headquarters, Geneva.
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.

“I see the ICRC archive as hugely important for people thinking and writing about the past and present of humanitarian aid and human rights,” he says. “But it’s also much more than that. It’s an archive that allows for studying conflict in all its different dimensions.”

The archives are a treasure trove for historians as they contain first-hand accounts from delegates on the ground, as well as internal and external correspondence, for every major conflict during the period in question. According to Thompson, they offer a perspective not always found in diplomatic or military archives because in addition to political analysis, they show how conflict affects the lives of ordinary people on the ground. Continue reading “History in the Making: An @ICRC Interview with Andrew Thompson”

8. Imperial Globalization – The Presence of the Past and the Crucible of Empire

Editor’s Note: It is hard to believe that the Imperial & Global Forum went live just a year ago. In the weeks leading up to the new year, please help us celebrate by checking out the year’s 10 most popular posts.

8. Imperial Globalization – The Presence of the Past and the Crucible of Empire

Andrew Thompson

Centre Director Andrew Thompson explains that if globalization is not to silence the past, we need to delve back into its history – its imperial history.

Almost a century before Christopher Columbus 'discovered' the Americas, Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty undertook voyages across the Indian and the Western Pacific Oceans. Photo credit: © Chris Hellier/Corbis
Admiral Zheng He. Almost a century before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty undertook voyages across the Indian and the Western Pacific Oceans. Photo credit: © Chris Hellier/Corbis

‘Globalization’ is among the biggest intellectual challenges facing the humanities and the social sciences today. It is a concept that conveys the sense that we are living in an age of transformation, where change is the only constant, nothing can be taken for granted, and no-one knows what the future might bring. But globalization is also much more than that. To borrow the phrase of the historical sociologist, Mike Savage, it is an ‘epoch description’, something that seeks to define for the current generation the very meaning of social change. By thinking of ourselves as part of a globalized world, we are saying something about how over time our identity has changed. We are locating ourselves in time, differentiating ourselves from our predecessors, signalling a break with what went before.

Champions of globalization are invariably concerned with the present. Their notion of time is unapologetically linear. Crudely exponential assumptions about the ever-increasing pace and scale of scientific and technological change are built into globalization’s teleology, and the belief that what we are experiencing today is as much incomparable as it is irreversible. ‘History’ is thus set to mean less and less for the present generation; the sense of the future as an outgrowth of the past is becoming less and less plausible. [continue reading]

Introducing: Centre Associates

Andrew Thompson_1000785_0Andrew Thompson
Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History
University of Exeter

Though based in the Department of History, Exeter’s Centre for Imperial & Global History is very keen to reach out into other areas of the College and the wider University. We share interests with a number of colleagues based in other departments who work on aspects of the history of empires as well as different dimensions of global history. The possibilities this opens up for collaborative work, for productive exchanges across disciplines, and for supporting one another’s seminars and conferences, are striking. We have recently invited a number of such colleagues to join us as Associate Members (appended below). Many of them are already in conversation with us, and we look forward to continuing these conversations in the future and in some cases to joint projects emerging out of them. If there are other scholars who would be interested in linking with us who we have not yet made contact with, and who are not on the list below, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Centre Associates include: Continue reading “Introducing: Centre Associates”

Culture Makes All The Difference: Reclaiming the Culture of Economics

economics2-450x230

Andrew Thompson
Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History
History Department, University of Exeter

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Conversation

Last week I attended the final “Provocation” of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value. Several such enquiries are currently in train. Together they promise a major re-examination of the UK’s arts and culture as one of the country’s greatest assets. They will no doubt touch on many things. But it will be particularly interesting to see what they have to say about the influence of culture on the economy. For this is the holy grail of the quest to quantify cultural value – a very old question yet one stubbornly resistant to an answer.

Culture, as described by one celebrated critic, is among the most awkward words in the English language. The broad and diffuse nature of the concept has meant that many economists have long been reluctant co-opt culture into their debates about development. Yet the case for spending public money on culture is greatly weakened by this failure to get to grips with its relationship to the economy.  At a time when the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ warns that up to 60% of public sector spending cuts are yet to be implemented, the arts and cultural sector more than ever needs to make its case to government in a manner commensurable with claims made by other competing calls on the public purse. Continue reading “Culture Makes All The Difference: Reclaiming the Culture of Economics”

Call for Applications: Global Humanitarianism Research Academy

Academy CFA

Call for Applications:

Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy

International Research Academy on the History of Global Humanitarianism

Academy Leaders:     

Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter)

In co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva)

and with support by the German Historical Institute London

Venues:                             Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz and Archives of the International Committee of Red Cross Geneva

Date:                                   13-24 July 2015

Deadline:                          31 December 2014

Information on:  http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ & https://imperialglobalexeter.com/

The international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy (GHRA) offers research training to advanced PhD candidates and early postdocs. It combines academic sessions at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter with archival sessions at the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross 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. Continue reading “Call for Applications: Global Humanitarianism Research Academy”

Q&A: What Can Red Cross Records Say About History of Humanitarianism & Human Rights?

q&a

An Imperial & Global Forum Interview

Professor Richard Toye (RT) interviews Centre Director Andrew Thompson (AT). Professor Thompson recently returned from an archival visit to the ICRC and would like to thank Jean-Luc Blondel and his colleagues for their assistance and guidance.

RT: Andrew, you’ve recently come back from Geneva, where you’ve been doing some archival research. What were you looking at and why?

AT: I was looking at two sets of files in the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross that have not yet been publicly released. The first on the Nigeria-Biafran War – a watershed in the history of the ICRC as well as a conflict that has been aptly described as the “crucible of modern humanitarianism”. Continue reading “Q&A: What Can Red Cross Records Say About History of Humanitarianism & Human Rights?”

In Search of British Values

Rumana Begum and Andrew Thompson 
Email Rumana Begum, rumana90@hotmail.com or Andrew Thompson, a.s.thompson@exeter.ac.uk

Cross-Posted from Care for the Future

Last week Michael Gove rekindled the debate on British values by demanding that they should be taught in Britain’s schools. Gove’s broadside against the dangers of Islamic extremism taking a hold of our education system was backed by the Prime Minister, who rallied to his Education Secretary’s side, claiming that the incorporation of British values into the school curriculum was likely to have the “overwhelming support” of the country. The Prime Minister went on to give his own view of what these values are, citing freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility, and a respect for British institutions.

Continue reading “In Search of British Values”

Imagining Britain’s Global Markets

A 1927 pictoral map with all the dominions and trade routes. British Empire Marketing Board.   (Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-27-382 Copyright expired.)
A 1927 pictoral map with all the dominions and trade routes. British Empire Marketing Board.
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-27-382 Copyright expired.

The History Department at the University of Exeter has recently received funding from the AHRC to support an international research network: ‘Imagining Markets: Conceptions of Empire/Commonwealth, Europe and China in Britain’s economic future since the 1870s’. The network led by David Thackeray, Richard Toye and Andrew Thompson aims to provide a bridge between historical and contemporary ways of thinking about Britain’s future global economic orientation, bringing together scholars working in the fields of Imperial, European and Asian studies, and scholars from cultural studies and economic studies, which have become increasingly separated branches of enquiry calling for reintegration.

Continue reading “Imagining Britain’s Global Markets”

Imperial Globalization – The Presence of the Past and the Crucible of Empire

Andrew Thompson

Centre Director Andrew Thompson explains that if globalization is not to silence the past, we need to delve back into its history – its imperial history.

Almost a century before Christopher Columbus 'discovered' the Americas, Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty undertook voyages across the Indian and the Western Pacific Oceans. Photo credit: © Chris Hellier/Corbis
Admiral Zheng He. Almost a century before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty undertook voyages across the Indian and the Western Pacific Oceans. Photo credit: © Chris Hellier/Corbis

‘Globalization’ is among the biggest intellectual challenges facing the humanities and the social sciences today. It is a concept that conveys the sense that we are living in an age of transformation, where change is the only constant, nothing can be taken for granted, and no-one knows what the future might bring. But globalization is also much more than that. To borrow the phrase of the historical sociologist, Mike Savage, it is an ‘epoch description’, something that seeks to define for the current generation the very meaning of social change. By thinking of ourselves as part of a globalized world, we are saying something about how over time our identity has changed. We are locating ourselves in time, differentiating ourselves from our predecessors, signalling a break with what went before. Continue reading “Imperial Globalization – The Presence of the Past and the Crucible of Empire”

Can Imperial History Ride to Heritage’s Rescue?

Andrew Thompson_1000785_0Andrew Thompson
Director, Centre for Imperial and Global History

For the last century Britain has led the world in caring for its heritage. Yet with cuts in public spending and pressures to relax restrictions on development the future of our historic environment is looking ever more uncertain and insecure. Centre Director Professor Andrew Thompson asks whether imperial history can ride to Heritage’s rescue. It is something that struggling heritage groups across the globe might do well to consider.

Imagine a Britain without Stonehenge or Hadrian’s Wall. Imagine our historic landscape no longer embellished by great castles, cathedrals or country houses. This could have easily been a reality today had it not been for a very significant piece of legislation in the nation’s legal history — the 1913 Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act.

This long forgotten, yet landmark piece of legislation, paved the way for the creation of the historic environment that we know and enjoy today. Its premise was that there were monuments and buildings that belonged to our nation’s history: and that government had a duty to ensure their survival.

For the last century Britain has led the world in caring for its heritage. Yet with cuts in public spending and pressures to relax restrictions on development, the future of our historic environment is looking ever more uncertain and insecure. Continue reading “Can Imperial History Ride to Heritage’s Rescue?”

Talking Empire: The Gallagher-Robinson Controversy

The Centre for Imperial and Global History is pleased to announce its new ‘Talking Empire’ podcast series. Hosted by Professor Richard Toye, Centre academics are developing a series of podcasts on controversies in global and imperial history, which are available to listen to for free on this page.

AfricaVictoriansWith this first installment, Centre Director Andrew Thompson discusses the longstanding debates surrounding the work of Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson. In their path-breaking 1953 Economic History Review article, ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’, Gallagher and Robinson suggested that the so-called ‘New Imperialism’ of the late nineteenth century was not new at all. They argued instead that imperial historians had previously missed Britain’s informal imperial expansion following its adoption of free trade policies c. 1850. The authors expanded further upon their informal imperial findings with Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism (1961).

Listen to the three installments of Andrew Thompson discussing the controversial legacy of Gallagher and Robinson: Continue reading “Talking Empire: The Gallagher-Robinson Controversy”

Welcome to the Imperial & Global Forum

Globus_book-shelf_hgAndrew Thompson
Centre Director

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Imperial & Global Forum, the blog of the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the History Department, University of Exeter. In it, contributors will tackle the controversies of empire and globalization, past and present. So please be sure to follow along, join in the discussion, and give us feedback on the blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

We are one of the largest UK research groups working on the history of modern empires and their importance for understanding the making of our contemporary world. If you go to our Centre website you will find more details about the range of staff involved, the variety of countries they study, and the work they have recently published. You will also be able to learn more of some of the major collaborative projects that are supported by the Centre, the particular colleagues who are involved in them, and the impact they are having within and beyond the academic world. Continue reading “Welcome to the Imperial & Global Forum”