New research academy launched

Published on: 22 June 2015

A collaboration between Centre for Imperial and Global History and the Leibniz Institute of European History is thinking forward by researching the past.

Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History, in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of European History at Mainz, have established a new research academy to advance our understanding of the global governance of humanitarian crises in the past as well as the present.

The Global Humanitarianism Research Academy will pay particular attention to the role of international organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in responding to such crises, and what can be learnt from the past when trying to tackle these crises today.

The first meeting of the Academy, which will give research training to advanced international PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, takes place later this month in Mainz, with next year’s meeting already scheduled to take place in Exeter.

The Research Academy is for academics working in the fields of humanitarianism, international law, peace and conflict studies and human rights,covering the period from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

University of Exeter academic Professor Andrew Thompson set up the Academy with Professor Johannes Paulmann and Dr Fabian Klose in Mainz. Two of Professor Thompson’s Exeter colleagues, Dr Marc Palen and Dr Stacey Hynd, will participate in the first meeting in Mainz and Geneva.

Professor Thompson said: “We are currently witnessing a burgeoning interest in the histories of humanitarianism and human rights and this initiative brings together twelve leading early career researchers from around the world to discuss and debate the issues and to develop and refine their own research projects. It is the first time that anything like this has been tried.”

Professor Thompson helped to develop the Academy as part of his Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Leadership Fellowship for the ‘Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past’ research programme.

He added: “I lead one of the Council’s multi-disciplinary programmes of research, which places strong emphasis on the support for and training of early career researchers. One of the things we hope to achieve through the second week of the Academy at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva is to give participants the opportunity to familiarise themselves with one of the major global archives for studying conflict.

“There will be presentations from several ICRC staff, not only those who take care of the archive, but those who have experience of running major humanitarian operations in the field. By doing this we hope to bring humanitarian’s past, present and future into closer dialogue and to provide a critical historical perspective on current challenges faced by international humanitarian and human rights organisations.”

As part of the academy PhD and postdoctoral researchers will have the chance to sharpen the methodological and theoretical focus of their projects through an intense exchange with their peers working in the same or related fields of humanitarianism and human rights. They will also be able to discuss their research design and publication strategy with established scholars. Professor Michael Geyer, from the University of Chicago, a leading expert on the history of human rights, will be the guest lecturer.

The ICRC has generously supported the week archival session in Geneva. Here the ICRC’s archives will provide rich material, including visual material, for the history of international affairs in the ages of nation states, empires and global governance. Under the guidance of the experienced staff from the archive, the members of the Research Academy will study primary sources related to the previous discussions at Mainz and to their own research projects. 

Participants at the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy will also work together to produce an Online Atlas of Humanitarianism and Human Rights, a unique digital resource for anyone interested in how the world has mobilised to respond to major humanitarian crises and human rights abuses over the last two centuries.

Related links

» Leibniz Institute of European History
» International Committee of the Red Cross
» Arts and Humanities Research Council

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