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Obtaining the 'due observance of justice': the geographies of colonial humanitarianism?
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 17:08 authored by Alan LesterAlan Lester
Within the context of contemporary discussion over geography and developmental ethics, this paper examines part of the genealogy of a modern British sense of responsibility for the plight of distant strangers. The frame of reference for this sense, known as humanitarianism, was first cast overseas through debates over the slave trade in the late 18th century, and its remit was further extended as a result of the contested processes of colonial settlement in the 1820s and 1830s. This geographically expansive discourse is analysed through a study of two exemplary statements of humane intervention: the Aborigines Committee (1835 - 37), and the military Court of Enquiry into the death of the African Xhosa King Hintsa (1836). Each demonstrated a new-found concern for the fate of colonised individuals. They established that the sufferings of distant others were inextricably connected to the everyday privileges enjoyed by Britons. However, they also formulated prescriptive principles targeted not only at the relief of suffering, but at the moral and material improvement of distant subjects -- principles which continue to inform more recent debates over global ethics.
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Department affiliated with
- Geography Publications
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