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The British government and the International Committee of the Red Cross relations, 1939-1945

Crossland, James (2010) The British government and the International Committee of the Red Cross relations, 1939-1945. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Since its inception in 1863 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has pursued its mandate to bring succour to victims of war by strict adherence to its core principles of neutrality and impartiality when dealing with belligerents. The problems of carrying out this mandate during the Second World War were manifold. This was owing not only to the brutal nature of the conflict, but the numerous restrictions under which the Committee was permitted to operate. Although much has been written of the restrictions placed upon the ICRC by the German and Swiss governments and indeed, the Committee's own principles and statutes, the role of the British in determining the success or failure of the ICRC's mission has been mostly ignored by historians. This thesis addresses this problem by analysing the often difficult diplomatic relations between the ICRC and the British government during the Second World War.

Through examining these relations this thesis provides new insights into several key wartime events concerned with International Humanitarian Law, neutrality, prisoner of war history, espionage studies and the history of the British blockade in Greece and France. A new perspective will also be offered herein, on the ICRC's controversial and much maligned vice-president Carl J. Burckhardt, who was both the bane of British-ICRC relations and the Committee's most influential wartime member. In conclusion this thesis will argue that the role of the British government in the ICRC's wartime activities was both far more damaging than has been acknowledged and, paradoxically, of great importance for the long-term development of the ICRC into the multifaceted humanitarian agency it is today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Durey, Michael
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