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Humanitarianism in the Modern World
The Moral Economy of Famine Relief

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  • Date Published: November 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108737371

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About the Authors
  • This is an innovative new history of famine relief and humanitarianism. The authors apply a moral economy approach to shed new light on the forces and ideas that motivated and shaped humanitarian aid during the Great Irish Famine, the famine of 1921-1922 in Soviet Russia and the Ukraine, and the 1980s Ethiopian famine. They place these episodes within a distinctive periodisation of humanitarianism which emphasises the correlations with politico-economic regimes: the time of elitist laissez-faire liberalism in the nineteenth century as one of ad hoc humanitarianism; that of Taylorism and mass society from c.1900-1970 as one of organised humanitarianism; and the blend of individualised post-material lifestyles and neoliberal public management since 1970 as one of expressive humanitarianism. The book as a whole shifts the focus of the history of humanitarianism from the imperatives of crisis management to the pragmatic mechanisms of fundraising, relief efforts on the ground, and finance. This book is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

    • Provides innovative narratives of how humanitarianism has developed over the past two centuries
    • Takes a fresh look at humanitarian action by applying a reframed moral economy approach that focuses on aid appeals, the allocation of relief, and aid accounts
    • Presents three case studies of famine relief in different periods, geographical locations, and political circumstances: the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, the famine in Soviet Russia in 1921–3, and the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s
    • This book is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core
    Read more


    • Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2021, Choice Reviews

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘This very highly recommended book is an indispensable contribution to the growing study of historical change in humanitarian organizations.’ J. M. Rich, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108737371
    • length: 369 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.535kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of Tables
    List of Figures
    List of Abbreviations
    1. Famine Relief in Perspective
    1.1 Social Origins of Famine
    1.2 The Moral Economy of Aid
    2. Case Studies
    2.1 Three Ages of Humanitarianism
    2.2 The Great Irish Famine and Ad Hoc Humanitarianism
    2.3 The Russian Famine of 1921–3 and Organised Humanitarianism
    2.4 Famine in Ethiopia 1984–6 and Expressive Humanitarianism
    3. Appeals
    3.1 The Humanitarian Appeal
    3.2 Empire, Faith, and Kinship – Ireland
    3.3 Altruism, Self-Interest, and Solidarity – Soviet Russia
    3.4 Television, Shame, and Global Humanity – Ethiopia
    3.5 Arousing Compassion: A Long View on Calls for Famine Relief
    4. Allocation
    4.1 Allocating Gifts
    4.2 Fostering Local Efforts – Ireland
    4.3 Live and Let Die – Soviet Russia
    4.4 Relief, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement – Ethiopia
    4.5 Targeting Aid: Realities on the Ground across Two Centuries
    5. Accounting
    5.1 Humanitarian Accountability
    5.2 Figures, Narratives, and Omissions – Ireland
    5.3 The Power of Numbers – Soviet Russia
    5.4 More than 'Dollars' and 'Per Cent' – Ethiopia
    5.5 Keeping the Record: A Bicentennial Perspective
    Conclusion: The Moral Economy of Humanitarianism
    List of References

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    Humanitarianism in the Modern World

    Norbert Götz, Georgina Brewis, Steffen Werther

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  • Authors

    Norbert Götz, Södertörns Högskola, Sweden
    Norbert Götz is a Professor at the Institute of Contemporary History, Södertörn University, Sweden. He is the author of Deliberative Diplomacy (2011) and Ungleiche Geschwister (2001), for which he has been awarded with the Hans-Rosenberg-Memorial-Prize.

    Georgina Brewis, University College London
    Georgina Brewis is Associate Professor at University College London. Her previous publications include A Social History of Student Volunteering (2014), English Teachers in a Postwar Democracy (2014) and The World of UCL (2018).

    Steffen Werther, Södertörns Högskola, Sweden
    Steffen Werther is Associate Professor at the Institute of Contemporary History at Södertörn University. His publications include SS-Vision und Grenzland-Realität (2012).


    • Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2021, Choice Reviews

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