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Title: In aid of conflict : a study of citizen activism and American medical relief to Spain and China
Author: Wetherby, Aelwen D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 2774
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 triggered many responses amongst the American public, including a number of private initiatives in medical aid that occupied a borderland between traditional humanitarian relief and political activism. This study is interested in the stories of three organisations arising in this tradition: the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy (AMBASD), the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China (ABMAC), and the China Aid Council (CAC). While three separate initiatives in terms of who was responsible for their creation in the United States, and the communities they sought to help abroad, all three demonstrate parallels in their foundation and development that merit a joint historical consideration. Emerging from the backdrop of isolationism in U.S. foreign policy, the AMBASD, ABMAC, and CAC became a means of voicing both political and humanitarian ideals through the medium of medicine. In many ways, this thesis becomes a study of lost causes. As political campaigns, none of the organisations in this study succeeded in changing U.S. policy, although the ABMAC and CAC benefitted from interests that overlapped with larger changes in U.S. military alliances. As humanitarian organisations, only one (the ABMAC) lived past the conflict to which it owed its foundation. Their story, however, retains its historical interest in challenging both the way in which we examine the mythology of humanitarian idealism, and our understanding of the balance between internationalism and isolationism in the 1930’s United States. For the medical activists of these organizations, medical aid offered both a tangible outlet for personal ethical and political beliefs, but also promised an alternative means of diplomacy that brought greater agency to more popular levels.
Supervisor: Harrison, Mark; Davies, Gareth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of medicine ; History of North America ; History of War ; International,imperial and global history ; Spanish Civil War ; Second Sino-Japanese War ; American Red Cross ; medical relief ; international aid ; humanitarianism ; medical volunteer ; medical activism