James CrosslandMay 27, 2019
War, Law and Humanity
The Campaign to Control Warfare, 1853-1914
Beginning in the mid-1850s, a number of people in Europe and the United States undertook a range of efforts in response to the horrors of war. In his book War, Law and Humanity: The Campaign to Control Warfare, 1853-1914 (Bloomsbury, 2018) James Crossland describes the emergence of various movements in the second half of the 19th century designed to address the suffering caused by military conflict. Though such suffering has been a part of warfare since time immemorial, as Crossland explains the emergence of the popular press in the early 19th century brought awareness of the battlefield experience to a greater part of the population. In response, several motivated volunteers embarked upon a variety of activities to address the effects of war, from providing better treatment for wounded soldiers to spearheading efforts to establish mutually-agreed-upon limits on the conduct of warfare. Within a decade, organizations such as the United States Sanitary Commission and the Red Cross emerged to coordinate and regularize these efforts, often with official support from warring governments. Yet these attempts to moderate misery were opposed by another product of the reaction to the warfare of the era – the peacemakers who wanted to end war altogether and who viewed the efforts to regulate it as an enabling of inter-state conflict.