An explosion of new endeavours: global humanitarian responses to industrialized warfare in the First World War era
Branden Little 1-16View the article abstract
This special issue explores the newly emerging history of humanitarianism and humanitarian aid during the First World War era. Broadly defined, humanitarianism invokes helping others, promoting the general welfare of mankind, and rescuing endangered people. Incorporating humanitarianism into the history of the war deepens our understanding of the political, diplomatic, social, and cultural contours of the conflict. It offers novel ways for thinking about such topics as the experience of civilians, the role of non-state organizations and individual actors in the war effort, and the nature of relations between neutrals, allies, and warring nations. It illuminates, moreover, the formation of ideas, structures, and practices of interventionism, and the ways in which humanitarian responses to war catalysed the formation of new forms of international interaction and awakened the world to the possibilities of aid amid disaster and in its wake. The dynamism of this new front of First World War history is revealed by this issue’s eight feature articles written by an international group of historians – the vanguard of this scholarship. This introductory essay synthesizes their pathbreaking work, examines the major features of humanitarianism and relief in this era, and identifies the fertile but as-yet untilled fields awaiting further study.