• de
  • en

In the Cause of Humanity

This project conducts a comparative and transnational study of humanitarian intervention in the long 19th century. The project compares different arenas in which "humanity" was enforced by military means, including the fight against the Transatlantic slave trade (1808-1890), the interventions of the European Great Powers to protect Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire (Greek War of Independence (1827-1829), the Lebanese Civil War (1860-1861) and the Balkan Crisis (1876-1878)), and the US intervention in the Cuban War of Independence (1898).

Through an in-depth and archive-based examination of these cases, the project seeks to demonstrate how they were closely connected by the involvement of common actors, and they served as precedents for the development of an overall doctrine of intervention. An integrated analysis of these cases will focus on: the interdependence of mobilized international public opinion; military intervention practice; emerging imperialism; and the development of humanitarian norms in international law from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century.
The main focus is on the intervention of liberal states like Great Britain, France and the United States of America, which in the 19th century had already developed a strong constitutional commitment to humanitarian norms. However, it is also vital to look at the role of early forms of non-governmental organizations. This study will investigate how and why pressure groups – such as the movement for the abolition of slavery – came to play decisive roles in the mobilization of public opinion and were able in some circumstances to influence the decisions of states to intervene in defense of humanitarian norms. More specifically, the study will seek to establish how activists from various political and religious backgrounds were able to decisively influence public opinion on an international level, and thus to serve as a model for later pressure groups campaigning for a policy of active intervention. Alongside and complementing the non-governmental level, the project will also examine the intensification of cooperation between states. It will investigate how, in the wake of the different interventions outlined above, various forms of diplomatic conferences and international commissions emerged to coordinate the activities of the Great Powers involved.