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The British Red Cross and the Spanish refugees of 1939
Kerrie Holloway

In late January 1939, almost 500,000 Spanish Republican refugees fled into France after the fall of Catalonia to the Nationalists. Once in France, the refugees were indiscriminately placed in concentration camps on Mediterranean beaches. Surrounded by barbed wire and lacking shelter, many refugees felt their plight was directly caused by the Non-Intervention Agreement signed by their current host, France, and its ally Britain. While France was obligated to deal with the Spanish on its own soil, many expected Britain to do something to support the situation it had helped create. Thus, the British Red Cross received a £50,000 grant from the British Government to aid the work of the French Government in the camps – a paltry sum significantly hampered by both insufficiency and inefficiency. This case study highlights the close relationship that exists between national governments and national Red Cross societies and argues that, in the Spanish Civil War, the biased ‘neutrality’ of the British Government, through the Non-Intervention Agreement, directly influenced the actions and attitudes of the British Red Cross. It further investigates how the British Red Cross’s work during the Spanish Civil War reveals the priorities and prejudices of the British Government during the late 1930s.

in The Red Cross Movement
The New Zealand Red Cross and the international Red Cross Movement
Margaret Tennant

During the twentieth century, the New Zealand Red Cross was one of the most distant national societies from the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies. Its engagement with them was shaped by its own complicated beginnings, and by both intersecting relationships with the British Red Cross and the challenges imposed by distance. The chapter examines the points of contact between this particular national society and the Movement; whether they were independently sustained or mediated through government actions or the influence of larger societies such as the British Red Cross; and how they changed over time. It is a study of a national society looking outwards, but also of the ways that the Movement’s lofty principles were understood and played out internally, often becoming submerged in the sheer ‘busyness’ of local Red Cross activity within New Zealand. The growing sense of New Zealand’s distinctive contribution to the Movement from the 1960s is examined in relation to the work of its overseas delegates and representatives, and to Red Cross activities in the Asia-Pacific region. A broader question interrogated here is what it means to ‘be Red Cross’ in a particular national context.

in The Red Cross Movement
The United States Sanitary Commission and the development of the Red Cross Movement, 1861–1871
James Crossland

In 1861, President Lincoln authorised the creation of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) – a body comprising humanitarian volunteers whose purpose was to complement the work of the Union’s Medical Bureau by sourcing supplies, inspecting hospitals and providing general succour to wounded soldiers. Two years later, when news of the first Geneva Conference reached the ears of the USSC’s leaders, they naturally assumed that the Committee of Five had been inspired by the American example to pursue its aims. Historians of the USSC have repeated these claims, despite the comprehensive rejection of the idea of an American origin for the Red Cross Movement by several leading Red Cross scholars. This paper will re-examine the issue of American influence on the Red Cross Movement by turning away from the idea that the USSC inspired the Geneva Convention. Instead, the focus here will be on how the performance of the USSC captured the imaginations of the first Red Cross volunteers, and contributed to the fundamental reshaping of the Committee of Five’s conception of the Red Cross by the dawn of the twentieth century.

in The Red Cross Movement
Neville Wylie

This chapter explores the way in which the British Red Cross Society responded to the crisis that affected the flow of relief parcels to British prisoners of war in Germany after the summer of 1940. It argues that the Society was slow to adjust to total war conditions. It was ill equipped to deal with the intensity of public criticism, and found itself outmanoeuvred by a Government that was intent on evading its responsibility for the crisis. It was also slow in identifying ways out of the crisis, or in forging close working relations with the non-anglophone elements of the Red Cross Movement, notably the International Committee of the Red Cross and neutral national Red Cross societies.

in The Red Cross Movement
Finding a role after the Second World War
Rosemary Cresswell

In 1974 the British Red Cross (BRCS) conducted an ‘Attitude Survey’, the analysis of which concluded that the public knew much more about the organisation’s wartime than peacetime activities, and that the number of younger members was in decline. Three decades earlier, the BRCS had faced a crisis in identity, leading to the repositioning of the charity at a time of tremendous political, social and economic change, including much more emphasis on international humanitarian aid. Indeed, in 1947 the BRCS’s Public Relations Department stated that the public needed to know that the ‘British Red Cross still exists’. To what extent did the end of the Second World War and the launch of the National Health Service in 1948 affect policy, philanthropy, volunteerism and public perceptions of the charity? Drawing on the wider historiography on postwar humanitarianism, the Welfare State and voluntarism, this chapter analyses the way in which the BRCS adapted, and co-operated with State services and other charities between 1946 and 1974.

in The Red Cross Movement
Davide Rodogno

This chapter offers a reflection on two features of modern/contemporary western humanitarianism: arrogance and compassion. The objective of the chapter is to put forward and historicise arrogance, offering an ad hoc – usable – definition, and to do the same with compassion. The chapter engages with the historiography of this increasingly densely populated field, offering reflections on the state of humanitarian history both within and without this edited collection.

in The Red Cross Movement
The American Red Cross in the last war of Cuban independence (1895–1898)
Francisco Javier Martínez

This chapter takes one episode of Spain’s modern history as a case study to move the focus of Red Cross historiography towards less rigid national and colonial categories. It focuses on the relief initiatives carried out during the last war of Cuban independence in 1895–8. It suggests that it was here that the American Red Cross openly made its push for world domination of humanitarian power, and challenged the model of colonial expansion practised by other national societies under a model set up and controlled by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

in The Red Cross Movement
The First World War and the expansion of the Canadian Red Cross Society’s humanitarian vision
Sarah Glassford

When the Canadian Red Cross (CRCS) was created in 1896 as the first colonial branch of the British Red Cross, it held closely to the Red Cross Movement’s founding vision of inactivity in peacetime. While other national Red Cross societies expanded beyond the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, the CRCS did not – and, as a result, failed to thrive. This chapter will examine the role of the First World War in transforming the CRCS into a nationwide patriotic and humanitarian cause, its wartime work fuelled by British imperialism and an emerging sense of English-Canadian nationalism born of the war. The CRCS’s evolution between 1914 and 1919 therefore offers a useful case study of how intersecting national, imperial and transnational forces shaped the evolution of one humanitarian organisation.

in The Red Cross Movement
Caroline Reeves

The Chinese Red Cross Society was founded in 1904 by a group of Chinese elites intent on helping their countrymen trapped by the Russo-Japanese war in north China. But even before this date, the Red Cross Movement was familiar to the imperial Chinese Government and to a growing cadre of Chinese intellectuals, merchants and officials. How did the Chinese understand the Red Cross Movement? How did they come to adopt a western organisation, permeated by principles and preoccupations foreign to China’s own cultural and material context? This chapter uncovers the original Chinese debates regarding China’s adherence to the Geneva Conventions and the formation of a Red Cross society sparked by the 1899 meeting at The Hague. These debates reveal important insights and correctives to the idea of ‘universality’ in the Red Cross principles. 

in The Red Cross Movement
Abstract only
The American Red Cross in an era of contested neutrality, 1914–1917
Branden Little

From 1914 to the early 1920s – the era of the First World War – the American Red Cross (ARC) was best known for its dynamic growth into an organisation boasting tens of millions of members who energetically participated in a wide array of relief and reconstruction initiatives across war-torn Europe. Less is known about the ARC’s profound struggles during the period of American neutrality, from 1914 to 1917. Every major undertaking that the Red Cross leadership initiated when the United States was neutral failed. It failed to orchestrate a national relief movement, to undertake substantive foreign relief operations and to adapt institutionally to America’s military entry in the war. Given its abject ‘failure to launch’ in these ways, it is all the more remarkable that the ARC became the nation’s leading relief society during the period of American belligerency, 1917–18. In order to appreciate that unlikely transformation, this chapter considers the hurdles over which the ARC initially stumbled.

in The Red Cross Movement