Colonial humanitarianism
in A history of humanitarianism, 1755–1989
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The interests of the home country’s inhabitants in the populations of the colonies derived most of all from the conviction that acquiring new territories meant taking on certain responsibilities. A now moral public recognised the value in compassion and benevolence. The prevailing idea was that the imperial government had obligations to deal with the c olonised subjects’ living conditions, to understand the reasons for their suffering and to find solutions to end it or at least to relieve it. The crossover between responsibility, compassion and benevolence permeated the whole European colonial experience and contributed to shaping the colonies’ administration. The chapter outlines the emergence of a transnational network of philanthropic activity which developed in close interaction with the relief work carried out at home. This interaction is clear both if we look at the types of initiatives undertaken ‘in the field’ and if we take into consideration the origins and set-up of the associations that were being founded to support the missionaries’ work.

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