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Emerging idea of humanitarian intervention 1500-1800

Boisen, Camilla 2009. Emerging idea of humanitarian intervention 1500-1800. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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This thesis traces the emergence of the idea of what has become known as humanitarian intervention. The nascent concept of humanitarian intervention was present in the early modern period, and emerged in the writings of thinkers who wrote on the law of nature and the law of nations, such as Francisco Vitoria, Alberico Gentili, Francisco Suarez, Juan Gines de Sepulveda, Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Christian Wolff, Emmerich Vattel, and Edmund Burke. My claim is that the distinctive features of the idea of humanitarian intervention have changed considerably over the centuries, reflecting the historical circumstances in which these ideas were developed. Although, on the surface, modern conceptions of humanitarian intervention share certain similarities with their historical namesake, they are in fact conceived and justified very differently. When contemporary thinkers invoke the authority of this illustrious heritage they tend to neglect the different foundations and rationale given for intervention. I argue that if we want to understand what shocked the moral conscience of mankind during the emergence of the idea, we have to understand the general historical context, that is, the conditions of belief that formed our conceptions of the moral obligation to save strangers. Otherwise we fail to understand what constitutes our humanitarian urge. For the earlier writers, debates were framed within a fundamentally western and Christian context, which they purported were universal. Most discussions revolved around questions of intervening to convert heathens to save their souls, saving innocents from being slaughtered and other crimes against the natural law such as cannibalism or sodomy. Modern conceptions of humanitarian intervention rest their case on very different principles, and are firmly grounded in a human rights culture associated with the juridical revolution in international relations. As such, this thesis explores the development of the idea of humanitarian intervention in the early modern period in order to highlight its distinctive character. To make such a claim I also identify some of the main features of the contemporary idea of humanitarian intervention. I suggest that the development of the concept has not been properly understood in the modern-day literature. There is therefore a considerable gap, which I seek to fill.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
ISBN: 9781303215094
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2021 11:34

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