The geographies of global humanitarianism : the Anti-Slavery Society and Aborigines Protection Society, 1884-1933
This thesis considers the cultural and political geographies of British
humanitarianism during the fifty years following the Berlin Conference of
1884-5, focussing on two societies which merged in 1909: the Anti-Slavery
Society and the Aborigines Protection Society. This period in the history of
the Societies has received relatively little scholarly attention. On the one
hand, historians of anti-slavery have focussed overwhelmingly on the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. On the other, scholars of modern
human rights have concentrated their attention on the period following the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This thesis aims not only to
bridge this gap, but to bring thesis literatures — on anti-slavery and human
rights — into productive dialogue.
The thesis has three major themes. Firstly, it situates the two Societies
within a wider 'humanitarian complex' that includes pan-Africanists,
missionaries, feminists, social reformers and others, exploring the
connections and the tensions between these groups. Secondly, it considers
the imaginative geography of British humanitarian concern during the
period under study, which involves both a global mapping of the
humanitarian gaze and the discussion of the politics of representation.
Thirdly, it examines the repertoire of practices which humanitarians developed in their campaigns to bring slavery and other humanitarian
abuses to the attention of various different publics.
The thesis is organised into seven chapters. Chapter 1 establishes the
theoretical framework for the study, drawing especially on the work of
Catherine Hall. Chapter 2 provides an historical context for British
humanitarianism between 1884 and 1933. Chapter 3 considers the
humanitarian complex. Chapter 4 examines the role of the journals
published by the two Societies in bringing humanitarian issues to the fore.
Chapter 5 investigates the models of empire imagined by British
humanitarians. Chapter 6 provides an account of the celebrations organised
by the humanitarian movement in 1933 to mark the centenary of the
abolition of slavery in the British colonies. The thesis concludes by
exploring the relationship between British humanitarianism in this period
and its modern equivalent.