The history of relief work is in its infancy. This book draws on new archival research to reveal the priorities of nineteenth-century relief workers, and the legacies of their preoccupations for relief work today. It first explores the inauguration of the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (NAS) at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 under the figurehead of Loyd Lindsay. Then, the book sees the revival of the NAS for work in the Balkans during a period of nationalist violence and Ottoman counter-insurgency which culminated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. It also follows the staff of relief committees as they dispensed aid in British colonial wars. The book examines the critiques of British policy in the Boer War (1899-1902) emanating from intersecting circles of Quakers, New Liberals and ethicists, and considers these groups' offer of aid to Boer civilians. Further, the book concentrates on the methodologies of relief for Boer inmates of British concentration camps in South Africa and on the implications of this relief for its intended recipients during and after the war. It concentrates on aid to British soldiers. The book closes by tracing continuities in vocational practices and dispositions to emerging areas of concern in the post-war period, in particular child welfare, and briefly considers their implication for relief work today.
British relief in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71
Relief workers' accounts from the Franco-Prussian War reveal genuine concern, often at personal cost, to ameliorate the affliction of injured soldiers and of civilians wracked by siege and agricultural disruption. The British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (NAS) was inundated with donations, and offers of help on a scale surpassing even that of the Patriotic Fund in the Crimean War. NAS volunteers either offered their services to existing French or German hospitals or formed complete ambulance units under the control of the Society. NAS surgeons recruited from Netley and the London teaching hospitals were concerned especially to keep up to date with treatments for wounds inflicted by the new artillery. The Quakers, of course, balked at the possibility of making war easier, and restricted their assistance to non-combatants. The NAS portrayed was civilian and independent, free of the stultifying effects of War Office bureaucracy.
This chapter focuses on how the politics of humanity and relief reverberated in 'progressive' circles in Britain, including those championing political representation for women. L. T. Hobhouse provides an instructive example of one who undertook a serious scholarly attempt to bridge science and ethics. He is of particular interest as leader writer for the anti-war Manchester Guardian during the South African War. Many of those opposed to war in South Africa were veteran campaigners against the Ottoman treatment of Christians, as well as against British conduct in Afghanistan, and many would reunite after the war to protest the plight of the Macedonians. Concern for the freedom of the Boer Republics did not, as a rule, extend to the freedoms of the 'native races' in South Africa. Threat of war in South Africa brought many of the progressives together in a new campaigning organisation, the South African Conciliation Committee (SACC).
This chapter considers the strained, sometimes acrimonious, negotiations that attended the systematisation of voluntary aid in Britain in this period of colonial conflict and fears of an impending German invasion. The Boer War of 1899-1902 was one of a cluster of colonial campaigns at the end of the nineteenth century in which the Red Cross movement provided aid to British soldiers for the first time. South Africa in 1899 found British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (NAS) officials reprising their role in the Sudan, particularly the provision of transport links for the evacuation of British wounded. For many, Red Cross work remained neutral by dint of its being 'above the fray': the feminisation of the British Red Cross Society (BRCS) in fund-raising and publicity images of beatific Red Cross nurses would only amplify this impression.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the origins of the Geneva Convention and British negotiations over its final form, stressing the legacy of the Crimean War on British attempts to reform the welfare of the common soldier. The book traces the delivery of aid by the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (NAS) and Friends War Victims' Relief Fund (FWVRF) in France. It also traces their experimental introduction of rapid-response medicine and attempts at 'self help' among the peasantry. It focuses on the delivery of aid and the politics of administering relief to civilians, refugees and soldiers in this region of insurgency and state violence, considering some of the various and contested understandings of neutrality that ensued.
A memorial watercolour commemorates Lieut Col Robert Loyd Lindsay's service during the Franco-Prussian War. Straight-backed, golden-haired and imposing, Loyd Lindsay strides away from a gutted house, his soldierly bearing conferred by long and distinguished service in the British army. Established on the day that war was declared between Prussia and France, the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (NAS) claimed allegiance to the newly signed Geneva Convention of 1864. For Sir Thomas Longmore, leading military surgeon of the day and the British government's delegate to the conferences at which the Geneva Convention was negotiated, these deficiencies had stimulated a lifelong interest in improving medico-military efficiency. A red cross emblem was to be worn on an armband by all those caring for the wounded and displayed prominently on all medical vehicles, hospitals and private homes containing injured soldiers.
Lady Strangford, helped along by Gladstone's patronage, administered one of the most prominent funds to aid suffering Christians in the Balkans, concentrating her efforts on those in the Rumeli district. The villages in Rumelia upon which Strangford and Long focused their concern had, by the spring of 1877, begun to return to normal. Unlike pro-Slav and Bulgarian relief funds, which relied on local connections, the Turkish Compassionate Fund worked closely with British diplomatic personnel. Much of the work of the Fund centred on the large town of Filibe, the site, a year earlier, of Lady Strangford's relief efforts. The question of aid to Serbian wounded had crucial political ramifications. The British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War's (NAS's) role in the Serbo-Turkish War proved controversial, on the grounds of its ineptitude as much as of its politicisation.
Relief, reconstruction and disputes over civilian suffering in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902
This chapter discusses the English visitors to South Africa, examining disputes over Emily Hobhouse's portrayal of abject Boer suffering and some of the ramifications of British efforts at relief and reconstruction at this tumultuous juncture in South African history. Emily Hobhouse, smarting at her exclusion from the government committee, also departed for South Africa, intent on resuming her work for the South African Women's and Children's Distress Fund. The Boer women and children internees of British concentration camps became the subject of considerable investigation and intervention. The three women affiliated to the Friends South African Relief Fund Committee began to report back their impressions of the camps. The years following the Peace of Vereeniging in May 1902 are known as the period of 'reconstruction' in South African history.
Events of 1876-78, for the exposure of atrocity and provision of relief formed a template of a popular humanitarian politics that would animate broad strands of radicalism up to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 and beyond. Protestors were urged to donate money for the relief of the victims of oppression as an expression of solidarity with their fellow protestors and their suffering 'brothers' in South-Eastern Europe. It is worth pointing out some of the complexities of the events that British protestors labelled the 'Bulgarian atrocities'. The Bulgarian Orthodox population as a whole was largely quiescent, and there was no Bulgarian revolutionary tradition. The Bulgarian Orthodox population as a whole was largely quiescent, and there was no Bulgarian revolutionary tradition. Rumours of a Bulgarian uprising elicited brutal local reprisals. Violence occurred against Christians and against Muslims in the area.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book demonstrates the spirit in which relief agencies bestowed their gifts in war, as much remains to be written about the spirit in which they were received. It shows the relief work was a prominent arena for promoting national rejuvenation, furthering England's role overseas and enacting the ideals of participatory citizenship. The Armistice in November 1918 and the opening of peace negotiations two months later found apostles of humanity such as Edward Carpenter in despondent mood. Domestic infant welfare soon became the post-war British Red Cross Society's (BRCS's) main preoccupation. During the 1920s and 1930s the BRCS participated in this 'mothercraft' movement, training Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in the hygienic care of young children. The war correspondent Linda Polman has observed the potential for beneficiaries to manage their self-representation in conformity with fund-raising images.