Calculating compassion

Humanity and relief in war, Britain 1870–1914

By Rebecca Gill

Calculating compassion


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7810-1
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2013
  • BIC Category: History & Archaeology, General & world history, c 1500 onwards to present day, 19th century, c 1800 to c 1899, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Philanthropy & Charity, HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century, Society & social sciences / Charities, voluntary services & philanthropy, Humanities / Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, Sociology
  • Series: Humanitarianism: Key Debates and New Approaches


Calculating compassion examines the origins of British relief work in late-nineteenth-century wars on the continent and the fringes of Empire. Commencing with the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, it follows distinguished surgeons and 'lady amateurs' as they distributed aid to wounded soldiers and distressed civilians, often in the face of considerable suspicion. Dispensing with the notion of shared 'humanitarian' ideals, it examines the complex, and sometimes controversial, origins of organised relief, and illuminates the emergence of practices and protocols still recognisable in the delivery of overseas aid. This book is intended for students, academics and relief practitioners interested in the historical concerns of first generation relief agencies such as the British Red Cross Society and the Save the Children Fund, and their legacies today.


'Gill has not simply written a history of relief- this is a book about the unseen consequences of war, evolving British ideas about internationalism and empire, and attitudes to poverty and race at the turn of the twentieth century. It also demands attention for its relevance to contemporary policy makers.'
Kevin O'Sullivan, National University of Ireland, Galway, Journal of Modern History, September 2016


Introduction: Calculating compassion in war
Part I. A new vocation: British relief in war: France, 1870- 71
1. The origins of British relief in war
2. Accounting for compassion: British relief in the Franco-Prussian war, 1870-71
Part II. Knowledge of suffering and the politics of relief: The Balkans, 1876-78
3. New humanitarian politics: 'victim' nations and the brotherhood of Humanity
4. Neutrality and the politics of aid in insurgency: British relief to the Balkans, 1876-78
Part III: The boundaries of compassion: humanity and relief in British wars, c.1884-1914
5. Scientific humanitarianism and British 'tyranny' in South Africa
6. The rational application of compassion? relief, reconstruction, and disputes over civilian suffering in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902
7. Neutrality, proficiency and the feminisation of aid: from the 'scramble for Africa' to the Great war
Conclusion: Humanity and relief in war and peace


Rebecca Gill is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Huddersfield

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