This session discusses the new book "Humanitarianism in the Modern World: The Moral Economy of Famine Relief (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020)", a co-authored monograph by Norbert Götz, Georgina Brewis, and Steffen Werther. This book takes a fresh look at the history of food aid and humanitarianism through a novel moral economy approach. It draws on case studies of the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s, the famine in Soviet Russia in 1921–3, and the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s. The analysis of relief efforts includes contributions from English and non-English speaking countries in today’s global North and the world at large. In addition to highlighting dilemmas of field work and the distribution of relief, the approach emphasises what are often under-investigated topics, namely aid appeals and financial accounts. Moreover, the book suggests a new periodisation of humanitarianism by analogy to politico-economic regimes rather than geopolitical change, thereby moving the focus of humanitarian history from crisis management in the outside world to the pragmatic conduct of humanitarian affairs, correlating their history with that of voluntary action and broader societal trends.
There will be a brief introduction by the authors, followed by a discussion of the book from the perspectives of global history, humanitarian history, and a practitioner think-tank.