Part II: Humanitarianism in wartime
in A history of humanitarianism, 1755–1989
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This short introduction offers an overview of second part of the volume. It highlights humanitarianism’s focus on the victims of armed conflicts and begins with the foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1864. Stemming from Genevan philanthropy, the ICRC aimed to reduce the degree of cruelty in war and to aid those soldiers struck down by enemy arms or by illness. The success of its programme was partly the result of the wide and rapid accreditation the new body managed to obtain from the European governments. In the First World War, civilians became the primary recipients of the ICRC’s assistance. In the post-war years international aid was planned to combat hunger, epidemics and population displacement, and humanitarianism acquired a new meaning in the overall transition of the European countries from wartime to peacetime. The same function was relaunched and strengthened after the Second World War, when humanitarian programmes became the symbol of the victorious powers’ will to write a new start for the history of humanity.

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