Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism, 1880-1940 (Oxford Historical Monographs)
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Between the late 1880s and the onset of the Second World War, anti-slavery activism experienced a revival in Europe. Anti-slavery organizations in Britain, Italy, France, and Switzerland forged an informal international network to fight the continued existence of slavery and slave trading in Africa. Humanitarian Imperialism explores the scope and outreach of these antislavery groups along with their organisational efforts and campaigning strategies. The account focuses on the interwar years, when slavery in Africa became a focal point of humanitarian and imperial interest, linking Catholic and Protestant philanthropists, missionaries of different faiths, colonial officials, diplomats, and political leaders in Africa and Europe. At the centre of the narrative is the campaign against slavery in Ethiopia, an issue which served as a catalyst for the articulation of international humanitarian standards within the League of Nations in Geneva.
By looking at the interplay between British and Italian advocates of abolition, Humanitarian Imperialism shows how in the 1930s anti-slavery campaigning evolved in close association with Fascist imperialism. Thus, during the Italo-Ethiopian war of 1935, the anti-slavery argument became a propaganda tool to placate public opinion in Britain and elsewhere. Because of its global echoes, however, the conflict also generated worldwide protest that undermined the beliefs and certainties of anti-slavery campaigners, resulting in a crisis of humanitarian imperialism. By following the story of anti-slavery activism into the post-1945 period, this volume illuminates the continuities and discontinuities in the international history of humanitarian organizations as well as the history of imperial humanitarianism.
pressure group in Geneva, to where the League had moved from its temporary headquarters in London in autumn 1920. The mandates system was one of the most daunting political, administrative, and humanitarian tasks with which the League of Nations found itself entrusted.23 From an international legal perspective, the new system promised to guide previously colonized and dependent people towards self-government, and to turn the former German colonies and Ottoman provinces into sovereign and
many religious pressure groups, the Società Antischiavista did not emerge from the First World War with revived internationalist feelings. Nor did the Italian organization join the ecumenical movement, which, in the immediate aftermaths of the war, looked to the League of Nations as ‘an essentially Christian means Bollettino della Società Antischiavista d’Italia (Nov. 1918), 8. Bollettino (July–Aug. 1918), 11. 3 ‘On the Peace Path’, Bollettino (Sept.–Oct. 1918), 2–3. 1 2 Italian
Ethiopian case study is particularly insightful as it allows for a multi-level analysis of the entanglements between British and Italian actors, Italian missionaries in Ethiopia, the Fascist colonial authorities, and the League of Nations’ slavery commissions. The focus on Ethiopia also illuminates the continuities between the colonial expansionist dreams of the liberal and of the Fascist government in Italy, an aspect of Italy’s vexed imperial history which has only recently begun to receive the
Touring Club Italiano and the Nationalization of the Italian Bourgeoisie’, European History Quarterly, 27, 3 (1997), 371–410. 159 Corner, ‘Italian Fascism’, 348. 154 155 Italian Anti-Slavery, 1919–1933 137 it craved? Did the organization achieve its primary goal of painting Italy as an abolitionist nation? When, in 1932, the British Anti-Slavery Society began to launch preparations for the centenary of emancipation, Italian activists challenged the established narrative of British
relative indifference, Italy was now ready to take on what it hoped would be a leading role in the international debate on slavery. Much to the satisfaction of the Italians and of the British Anti-Slavery Society, the League Assembly agreed to the Advisory Committee’s appointment in 1933, the year of the Centenary of the Emancipation Act, and the body eventually met for five annual sessions between 1934 and 1938. In the time between the Committee of Experts’ final report and the Advisory