In its most general form, humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness
Kindness is the act or the state of being kind, being marked by good and charitable behaviour, pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions ....

, benevolence
Charity (practice)
The practice of charity means the voluntary giving of help to those in need who are not related to the giver.- Etymology :The word "charity" entered the English language through the Old French word "charité" which was derived from the Latin "caritas".Originally in Latin the word caritas meant...

 and sympathy
Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used...

 extended universally and impartially to all human beings. Humanitarianism has been an evolving concept historically but universality is a common element in its evolution. No distinction is to be made in the face of suffering
Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, is an individual's basic affective experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm. Suffering may be qualified as physical or mental. It may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and...

 or abuse on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, tribe, caste, age, religion, or nationality.

Humanitarianism can also be described as the acceptance of every human being for plainly just being another human, ignoring and abolishing biased social views, prejudice, and racism in the process, if utilized individually as a practiced viewpoint, or mindset.

The idea of social reform

The Enlightenment idea of reform combined with the ethic of active compassion to inspire the social action of the humanitarian movement. Professor G. M. Trevelyan
G. M. Trevelyan
George Macaulay Trevelyan, OM, CBE, FRS, FBA , was a British historian. Trevelyan was the third son of Sir George Otto Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet, and great-nephew of Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose staunch liberal Whig principles he espoused in accessible works of literate narrative avoiding a...

 in his Social History of England has explained the humanitarian movement as a product of the influence of rationalism upon puritanism.“The rationalist movement had shaken the persecutor’s sword from the hand of faith and religion had been to school with her rival reason. From Milton to Wilberforce the road lay through Voltaire.”

The reformers diverged widely in their underlying beliefs but were united in their humanitarianism. Thus the Christian individualism of the Quakers, that each person shares the ‘inner light’ and the Arminianism
Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought within Protestant Christianity based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius and his historic followers, the Remonstrants...

 of the Evangelicals were both differently based from the Lockean or Kantian individualism of a Philosophe or a Utilitarian, but all recognized the equal moral significance of the human person and that the disregard of it was wrong. What also united them was the new idea of reform to remove those wrongs. And so in many of the major areas of humanitarian reform, Christians and rationalists worked together: in the case of slavery; William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was a British politician, a philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire...

, the Buxtons but also Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

 and Condorcet; in the case of working conditions; evangelicals such as Lord Shaftesbury
Shaftesbury is a town in Dorset, England, situated on the A30 road near the Wiltshire border 20 miles west of Salisbury. The town is built 718 feet above sea level on the side of a chalk and greensand hill, which is part of Cranborne Chase, the only significant hilltop settlement in Dorset...

 but also Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.Owen's philosophy was based on three intellectual pillars:...

 and Edwin Chadwick
Edwin Chadwick
Sir Edwin Chadwick KCB was an English social reformer, noted for his work to reform the Poor Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public health...

; in the case of punishments Beccaria but also Samuel Romilly
Samuel Romilly
Sir Samuel Romilly , was a British legal reformer.-Background and education:Romilly was born in Frith Street, Soho, London, the second son of Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller...

; in the case of the mentally ill; Shaftesbury and Pinel
Pinel is the surname of:* Raquel Pinel, Spanish football forward currently playing for Valencia CF in the Spanish league* Marcel Pinel , French footballer* Suzanne Pinel, CM is a Canadian children's entertainer and citizenship judge...

 and in the case of the treatment of animals, Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

 enlisted the aid of Wilberforce.

The idea that mankind could be improved by deliberate social change as distinct from the conferring of charity and the doing of ‘good works’ was relatively new. For all intents and purposes social and legal reform was a product of the Enlightenment. Its origins lay in the belief in the dominance of reason and that ‘Man’ was perfectible, if only the social conditions in which he or she lived would allow it. Most Enlightenment thinkers believed ‘man’ to be fundamentally good: “he was once free but is now everywhere in chains”. Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 in his Portable Dictionary said that “it is want that subjects one man to another.” Mankind would be perfected by knowledge – hence the great Encyclopaedia of Diderot and D’Alembert. Helvetius (1715–1771) made this philosophy very popular. He believed human character to be a product of social environment. The chief instruments enabling this to be done would be education and legislation. There thus grew up the demand for legal reform. If ‘laws are good, morals are good’ said Diderot.

Reform distinguished the humanitarian movement from charity and philanthropy. Speaking of the charitable and philanthropic institutions of the 19th century industrial era, Ernst Troeltsch said, “their aim was a new spirit, not a new society.” Christian philanthropy tended to deprecate reform as political. For the humanitarian movement, however, removal of the abuse causing suffering
Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, is an individual's basic affective experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm. Suffering may be qualified as physical or mental. It may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and...

 was the essence. The goal in almost every field of action undertaken by the humanitarian movement required changed social conditions and in many instances this could only be brought about through legislation.


The question arises as to the basis for the humanitarian movement's claim of ‘wrongness’ in the social conditions which it sought to eradicate or reform. The criterion of wrongness was not cruelty. It is true cruelty was often a manifestation of the social abuse or ‘wrongness’. Public reaction to cruelty was often vital to the mobilization of social action. But it was not the criterion. If, in the case of slavery, it had been otherwise, the movement would have been satisfied with improved treatment of the slaves. Historically, both in ancient Rome and in the southern states of America, many masters and their families were kind to their slaves and in late Rome and southern America, laws were in force prohibiting maltreatment of slaves. But this was never the aim of the humanitarian movement. It sought the abolition of slavery and not its amelioration. The institution was wrong. It was wrong even if no slave were suffering cruelty in the ordinary sense of the term. It was wrong because by virtue of the institution of slavery the master was able to subjugate the freedom and autonomy of another human being.

The principle of European individualism upon which the humanitarian movement was based was that every human being was of equal moral significance and it was the disregard of that moral significance which constituted the abuses against which the movement was directed. European individualism can be traced to the Greeks. It was the stoics, who like Aristotle, attributed significance to the human soul; but who, unlike Aristotle, considered every human being equal in that significance. Natural law, as the stoics conceived it, was based upon this principle of spiritual equality. Positive law was subject to the law of nature and, hence, uniquely to the ancient world, the stoics opposed slavery.

Medieval Christianity both conserved and transformed the ideal, largely limiting equality to the capacity of each believer to attain posthumous salvation. In 18th century Enlightenment Europe, the individualistic idea of the equal moral significance of the individual in ‘this-world’, re-emerged grounded upon reason and personal autonomy, not upon the equal capacity to escape damnation in the next world.

It was the disregard of moral significance in this sense which constituted the ‘wrongs’ identified by the humanitarian movement and justified social action in the case of slavery, the maltreatment of the working class in the 19th century; the brutality of criminal punishments and the use of torture in the criminal justice system; the treatment of the insane; the subjection of women to an inferior status and the inhumanities of colonialism.

Prevention of cruelty to animals involved an extension of the principle to non-human animals. The stoics had grounded moral significance on capacity to reason. St. Paul and St Augustine reflected this view and it became part of the Catholic tradition. Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...

 enunciated this in Rerum Novarum
Rerum Novarum
Rerum Novarum is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891. It was an open letter, passed to all Catholic bishops, that addressed the condition of the working classes. The encyclical is entitled: “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour”...

.”But animal nature, however perfect, is far from representing the human being in its completeness, and it is in truth humanity’s humble hand maid, to serve and obey”. The humanitarian movement attributed moral significance to non-human animals and sought the introduction of laws to protect them.


The Christian ethic of active compassion combined with rationalism, individualism and reformism. Although ‘wrongness’ was the ultimate criterion of social action for the humanitarian movement and ‘reform’ the method by which it was achieved, this would not have taken place without the energy generated by the ethic of active compassion. Reform was usually led by a small number of humanitarians but with the advent of democracy would not have gone further without community acceptance. The observance of suffering by the community does not necessarily give rise to compassion. It may do so - but society seems able to accept the infliction of pain on other human beings where it has the support and apparent justification of current social values. Thus for centuries the suffering of witches and heretics being burnt at the stake failed to arouse a compassionate response: nor did brutal punishments such as boiling to death and whipping. Great crowds gathered to witness public executions. Until the 19th century visitors would go to Bedlam
Bethlem Royal Hospital
The Bethlem Royal Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located in London, United Kingdom and part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Although no longer based at its original location, it is recognised as the world's first and oldest institution to specialise in mental illnesses....

 as if to a zoo. Bear baiting and cock-fighting were enjoyable pastimes.

A change in values from what had been the socially acceptable infliction of suffering may allow compassion to be released. The medical explanation of insanity advanced by Phillipe Pinel and others enabled the insane to be looked at through a quite different lens and reveal them to be sick human beings. Thereafter, lunatics were no longer chained, flogged or half-drowned in wells. And once crime had ceased to be viewed theologically as sin, the necessary infliction of pain involved in criminal punishments no longer provided an excuse for sadism. Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

’s moving description of the treatment of slaves in ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman....

’, published in 1852, led her wide international readership to recognize—in some instances for the first time, the cruelty and oppression of slavery. In this and similar instances the resulting public reaction of outrage to cruelty and compassion for those who suffered was the final but necessary catalyst to reform.

The reforms of the humanitarian movement

In the 18th, century conflicting religious belief became tolerated to a degree unthinkable one hundred years before. Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 was abolished. During the 19th century slavery was abolished; women began the agitation that would ultimately lead to universal suffrage; criminal punishments became more enlightened; laws were passed to prevent cruelty to children; treatment of the insane was humanised and working conditions were made almost tolerable. Pressure on Parliament by humanitarians led to regulation of working hours and amelioration of working conditions. The Factory Act of 1833 and the Factory Act of 1844 was some of the most significant humanitarian legislation passed. In the middle of the 19th century, humanitarianism was central to the work of Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

 in the alleviation of suffering in the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

. An international dimension was added to humanitarian reform with the founding of the International Red Cross. Finally, cruelty to animals became punishable.

Religious toleration
Religious toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

 came from above. It did not follow popular agitation. By contrast, the social action in the 19th century was in all cases greatly influenced by popular feeling and, in some instances, popular agitation. The initiating force remained with small groups of reformers. These groups set about energising public opinion. This often became the immediate cause of legislative action. One reason for the change was the advent of democracy - limited though it was until well into the 19th century. Also, communications had become easier. The industrial proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 crowding into the new cities made it feasible to hold the mass meetings such as those we associate with John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

. The population was increasingly literate. Political pamphlets had first circulated in England during the civil war. By the end of the 18th century the number of newspapers had made it financially worthwhile to impose a tax upon them. In one form or another the written word was part of social action. In fiction, novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and those of Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 drew attention to social wrongs and inspired reformist action. This change of audience led to a change in the mode of approach which became less philosophical and more obviously emotive, fastening on the cruelty which frequently accompanied the inhumanity to which social action was directed.

Abolition of slavery

In 1503, following the voyage of Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

, the Spanish Governor in the Indies, Orvando, commenced using Indians in the mines. Las Casas, the Bishop who accompanied him, observed the fearful toll the work took on the Indians. Las Casas suggested they be replaced by Negroes. Thus the fateful beginning of the transatlantic slave trade from Africa. Some 900,000 slaves were landed in the Americas by 1600. From the 17th century demand for African labour expanded greatly with the increased importation of sugar into Europe. It was in that century that slavery became recognized as a lawful status in Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 in 1641; in Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 in 1650 and in Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 in 1661. The 18th century saw England’s rise to dominance in the trade. By 1770 British traders were exporting 40,000 to 60,000 slaves annually. At that time the trade was chiefly carried on from Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 and by the end of the 18th century more than half the trade was British.

Once a ship was loaded with its slave cargo, it embarked upon the ‘middle passage’ to Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 or the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

. Ships averaged 150 tonnes. Each ship carried 600 slaves who were chained to shelves below deck during the voyage. “Packed in the holds of the galleys …the slaves were given no more than four to five feet in length and two or three feet in height so that neither could lie down full length nor sit upright.They were chained, right hand to left leg, and attached in rows to long iron bars.” The death rate varied from 19-20%. On arrival the slaves were auctioned. Then followed the ‘seasoning’ which usually lasted 12 months or so. About a third died in the seasoning.

There was a very high death toll. In Jamaica, there were 40,000 slaves in 1690. From then until 1810, 800,000 slaves were imported and yet only 340,000 remained on the island 1958. It is estimated that between 1680 and 1786 the total number of slaves exported into all the British colonies in America was 2,130,000. When the nature of the trade became known it was denounced by a wide range of people. John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 published his Thoughts on Slavery in 1774.

The Quakers were among the first to take action largely through the influence of John Woolman
John Woolman
John Woolman was an American itinerant Quaker preacher who traveled throughout the American colonies and in England, advocating against cruelty to animals, economic injustices and oppression, conscription, military taxation, and particularly slavery and the slave trade.- Origins and early life...

 and Anthony Benezet
Anthony Benezet
Anthony Benezet, or Antoine Bénézet , was a French-born American educator and abolitionist.-Biography:Anthony Benezet was born in Saint-Quentin, France, on 31 January 1713. His family were Huguenots. Because of the persecution of Protestants after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685,...

. In 1754 John Woolman prepared a Letter which was distributed by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting expressing concern at Quaker involvement in slavery. In 1758, influenced by Woolman, the Philadelphia Yearly meeting altered its traditional policy so that henceforth all members who bought or sold Negroes were to be excluded from business meetings or from making contributions to the Society. In 1760 the New England Quakers made importation of slaves an offence subject to discipline.

Great Britain

The process of abolition in Great Britain and the Empire went through a number of stages: the elimination of slavery internally; that is its prohibition and non-recognition within
Great Britain; the abolition of the slave trade from British ports and by British traders; the prohibition of slavery within the British dominions.

In England slavery was declared unlawful in 1772 by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, on a writ of habeas corpus
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

which came before him brought by a slave, Somersett
Somersett's Case
R v Knowles, ex parte Somersett 20 State Tr 1 is a famous judgment of the English Court of King's Bench in 1772 which held that slavery was unsupported by law in England and Wales...

. Somersett was being held in irons in the holds of a ship lying in the Thames and the anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp
Granville Sharp
Granville Sharp was one of the first English campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. He also involved himself in trying to correct other social injustices. Sharp formulated the plan to settle blacks in Sierra Leone, and founded the St. George's Bay Company, a forerunner of the Sierra...

 instituted proceedings on his behalf. The effect of the decision was that no person could thereafter be a slave on English soil and any slave brought to England would immediately be set free.

The slave trade continued unabated. In 1783 public opposition to it was aroused by the case of the slave ship Zong. The ship with 442 slaves had lost its way. With water short the master Colingwood explained to his crew that if the slaves died naturally from thirst the loss would lie on the shipowner but if, on some pretext, such as ‘safety of the crew’ they had to be thrown into the sea to drown, the loss would fall on the underwriters: and so 133 slaves were thrown into the sea.

In 1787 William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was a British politician, a philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire...

, Thomas Clarkson
Thomas Clarkson
Thomas Clarkson , was an English abolitionist, and a leading campaigner against the slave trade in the British Empire. He helped found The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade and helped achieve passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended British trade in slaves...

 and a group of friends, mostly of Anglican evangelicals, formed an association to carry forward a campaign for abolition in Parliament and throughout the country. On 12 May 1787 Wilberforce brought forward the first of many motions in the House of Commons. It was defeated but he had a powerful ally in his friend, the Prime Minister, William Pitt
William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24 . He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806...

. In 1791 his second motion sought to ban the further importation of slaves into the British colonies in the West Indies. It was defeated by 163 votes to 88. In 1792, after a magnificent speech by Pitt, the House of Commons accepted a resolution that the trade should be abolished in stages but this was defeated in the House of Lords. In 1795 Wilberforce would have secured the passage of a private Bill prohibiting the supply of foreign slaves by English merchants, had not twelve of his supporters gone to the opera. In 1804 Wilberforce’s Abolition Bill passed in the Commons again but was thrown out in the Lords. Finally, in 1807, a Bill passed both Houses putting an end to British traders engaging in the foreign supply of slaves and prohibiting the importation of slaves into colonies won by Britain during the Napoleonic wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

. The departure of any vessel to obtain slaves from any port within the British dominions after 1 May 1807 was prohibited and no slave could be landed in British colonies after 1 May 1808.

The Act of 1807 was disregarded as the purely pecuniary penalties were insufficient. It was not until Brougham carried a Bill through the Parliament subjecting offenders to transportation that the slave trade to the British Dominions was finally extinguished.

Although, therefore by about 1820 the trading in slaves had been widely prohibited, slavery itself had not been prohibited in the British colonies or in the British dominions. Wilberforce took up this cause but he was ageing and so in 1821 he appealed to Thomas Buxton to press in Parliament for abolition of slavery within the colonies and dominions. An anti-slavery body was formed including, in addition to Wilberforce and Buxton, Macaulay and Brougham. Because of hostility to the measure in the colonies its passage through parliament proved difficult. Finally, Earl Grey
Earl Grey
Earl Grey is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1806 for General Charles Grey, 1st Baron Grey. He had already been created Baron Grey, of Howick in the County of Northumberland, in 1801, and was made Viscount Howick, in the County of Northumberland, at the same time as...

 took the decisive step and introduced the Bill. Wilberforce, although dying before its enactment, knew on his deathbed that his long battle had been won. “Thank God I should have lived to witness this day”,he said. Twenty million pounds was paid as compensation to the planters.

Other countries

The effective prohibition on British ships gave foreign slave traders an advantage which they speedily took up despite intervention to stop them carried out by British cruisers.
It became imperative to include other countries in the ban:
  • Denmark: On 16 March 1792 King Christian VII
    Christian VII of Denmark
    Christian VII was King of Denmark and Norway and Duke of Schleswig and Holstein from 1766 until his death. He was the son of Danish King Frederick V and his first consort Louisa, daughter of King George II of Great Britain....

     issued a decree forbidding any Danish subject from taking part in the trade after 1 January 1803 – Denmark thus became the first country to ban the trade;
  • Sweden (1813): Sweden had banned the trade, having been given substantial compensation for Guadeloupe;
  • The Netherlands(1814): The Dutch were persuaded to stop the trade by the cession of the East Indies;
  • Portugal (1815): Portugal agreed to prohibit the trade north of the equator and to prohibit it elsewhere by 1823 for which it received 300 pounds from the British government;
  • Brazil (1888): Prohibition of the slave trade between Brazil and Portugal was only imperfectly enforced. The Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro II was personally very much opposed to slavery but on abolishing it, the planters rose up and exiled him to Europe;
  • Spain (1817): A Treaty was signed with Spain under which she agreed to abolish the slave trade north of the Equator and suppress it totally by 30 May 1820 for which the British government paid Spain 400,000 pounds;
  • France (1814): The thinkers of the Enlightenment had opposed slavery since Voltaire
    François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

     had mocked the slave traders in Candide
    Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

    . In 1788 the ‘Société des Amis des Noirs’ was formed in Paris to bring about the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself. The Marquis de Condorcet
    Marquis de Condorcet
    Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

     was its first President. In August 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man embodied the right of ‘natural liberty’ and thus rejected slavery. Alarmed at the discontent among the planters of San Domingo, the National Assembly passed a resolution that the Declaration was not intended to apply to colonies or at least to their internal affairs. The Assembly adverted to the fact the Declaration also protected the right of property. This resulted in rebellion in San Domingo. By 1798 the French were ejected and slavery abolished. In May 1814 France and England were in near agreement that France would cease participation in the trade when Napoleon I of France
    Napoleon I of France
    Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

     escaped from Elba
    Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, from the coastal town of Piombino. The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is also part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia...

    . One of Napoleon’s first acts upon reaching Paris was to abolish all the slave trade which was engaged in with the French dominions.

The example of Great Britain was then followed by the following countries in abolishing slavery within their dominions : in 1848 the slaves in all France’s colonies were immediately emancipated; in 1853 the Dutch commenced emancipation of slaves within their possessions; in 1858 it was enacted that every slave belonging to a Portuguese subject should be freed within 20 years and, from 29 April 1878, slavery became illegal throughout Portuguese possessions; the government of Buenos Aires enacted that all children of slaves after the 31 January 1813 should be free; in Columbia those born after 16 July 1821 were to be liberated upon attaining 18 and Mexico ended slavery on 15 September 1829.

The United States

The population of the slave states in America on the eve of the civil war in 1860 was 8,098,000 of whom 4,204,000 were black. There were 385,000 slave-holders:of these the 46,000 who owned more than 20 slaves were ‘planters’. By the 1830s the North, which had itself renounced slavery, was increasingly influenced by the abolitionist movement in England. The opposition to slavery widened. Perhaps, as Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 said in his Presidential campaign,the Union had to become one or the other. It could not remain slave and non-slave. In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

 published Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It had a powerful effect on both sides of the Atlantic. It described the cruelties of the system and the horrors of remote plantations. By the end of 1852 hundreds of thousands of copies of the book had been sold in the United States.

Event followed event. The Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

 saw an attempt in Congress to move the ‘slavery -- anti-slavery line’ north of that which had been agreed. Then followed the Dred Scott
Dred Scott
Dred Scott , was an African-American slave in the United States who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife and their two daughters in the Dred Scott v...

 decision in the Supreme Court in March 1857. The Supreme Court held that Congress lacked the constitutional power to interfere with the property of United States citizens. Slaves were property. The decision provoked a storm in the north.

Lincoln was elected President on 6 November 1860. On the 20th December, the state of South Carolina declared its secession from the Union. Next day Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas followed suit. In February 1861 these states, other than Texas, formed the Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

. Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 was chosen President. On 14 April President Davis demanded the surrender of the Union force at Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

. When the demand was rejected the Fort was bombarded. The civil war had begun.

President Lincoln’s proclamation emancipating the slaves took effect on the 1st January 1863. With the defeat of the South, slavery was in effect finished in the United States. In order to implement abolition entirely a constitutional amendment was required. The thirteenth Amendment came into force after Lincoln’s assassination, prohibiting slavery throughout the Union.

The conditions of workers in the 19th century

1760 may be taken as the approximate date for the beginning of the industrial revolution. England was the leading country. In the following decade James Hargreaves
James Hargreaves
James Hargreaves was a weaver, carpenter and an inventor in Lancashire, England. He is credited with inventing the spinning Jenny in 1764....

 invented the spinning jenny and James Watt
James Watt
James Watt, FRS, FRSE was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements to the Newcomen steam engine were fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.While working as an instrument maker at the...

, the steam engine. Richard Arkwright
Richard Arkwright
Sir Richard Arkwright , was an Englishman who, although the patents were eventually overturned, is often credited for inventing the spinning frame — later renamed the water frame following the transition to water power. He also patented a carding engine that could convert raw cotton into yarn...

’s water frame spinning machine enabled the weaving of whole cotton goods for the first time. Mechanization thus began in the cotton trade. Mills became located beside the water from the Pennine streams and extended to the plains below. Next came the application of coal in iron smelting.

The break with the past was complete. The enclosures had forced cottagers and farmers off their land. Handicraft industry had gone. In its place were the ‘dark, satanic mills’ of William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

’s imagery. People lived and died in sight of the cotton mill in which they spent from 14–16 hours of their daily lives. It was inevitable that eventually the new factories would concentrate an increasing population in the cities. Thus in the case of Manchester the population increased tenfold between 1760 and 1830, from 17,000 to 180,000.

In the factories children went to work soon after their sixth birthday. Orphans and pauper children would be collected from the Parish Work Houses in London and Birmingham and sent to the industrial centres of Nottinghamshire and Lancashire where they worked extremely long hours. “One relay of children rose wearily from their beds as another relay came to throw themselves down in their places. They were fed on the coarsest and cheapest food..” In the chimneys, masters found it cheaper to drive the chimney boys up the chimney than use long brushes. Not only did women work in the mines but they were forced to do heavy work for extremely long hours. In the factories, as late as December 1841, Leonard Horner
Leonard Horner
Leonard Horner , Scottish geologist, brother of Francis Horner, was born in Edinburgh.Horner was a 'radical educational reformer' who was involved in the establishment of University College School....

, an Inspector of Factories reported that industrial workers working a 14 hour day.

Eventually, justice and equality between capital and labour was achieved by Trade Unions, parliamentary reform and, in some countries, revolution or the fear of it. But for a time the humanitarian movement was the only barrier to the inhumanity suffered by the labouring classes. Broadly this was the state of England from 1802 when the Combination Act
Combination Act
The Combination Act 1799, titled An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen , prohibited trade unions and collective bargaining by British workers. An additional act was passed in 1800 ....

 was passed until the Ten Hour Bill was enacted in 1848. During this period it was the humanitarian movement which fought for laws to establish humane working conditions in factories and in the mines, reasonable hours of work and restrictions on the employment of women and children.

The movement was led by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury KG , styled Lord Ashley from 1811 to 1851, was an English politician and philanthropist, one of the best-known of the Victorian era and one of the main proponents of Christian Zionism.-Youth:He was born in London and known informally as Lord Ashley...

 (1801–1885) who was strongly supported by Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 radicals. Others were Michael Sadler
Michael Thomas Sadler
Michael Thomas Sadler was a radical British Tory Member of Parliament , opponent of Catholic emancipation and leader of the factory reform movement...

 (1780–1835), a Wesleyan Methodist, who had a business importing Irish linen; Richard Oastler (1789–1861), a land agent from a Wesleyan background; Edwin Chadwick
Edwin Chadwick
Sir Edwin Chadwick KCB was an English social reformer, noted for his work to reform the Poor Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public health...

 (1800–1890) who had been Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

’s secretary and Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.Owen's philosophy was based on three intellectual pillars:...

 (1771–1758). Owen was not an evangelical nor a utilitarian. Indeed he emphatically rejected Christianity. He was a Manchester cotton spinner who had made a fortune whilst young. Distressed by the conditions of workers at the Mills he set about giving them fairer conditions first at Manchester and afterwards at New Lanark
New Lanark
New Lanark is a village on the River Clyde, approximately 1.4 miles from Lanark, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was founded in 1786 by David Dale, who built cotton mills and housing for the mill workers. Dale built the mills there to take advantage of the water power provided by the river...

, in Scotland, where he operated a large cotton mill from 1820 to 1829. Owen had thoroughly absorbed the Enlightenment idea of the perfectibility of man through improved social conditions.He wrote about it and practised it in his own business life.

In 1815 Owen, apparently single-handedly, started an agitation for factory reform. He drafted a Bill to apply to all textile factories. It would have prohibited the employment of all children under 10 and prohibited night work for children under 18. He also wanted the working day for children restricted to 10½ hours per day. The Bill was fiercely opposed and rejected. Speaking in the House of Lords, James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale
James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale
James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale KT PC was Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, and a representative peer for Scotland in the House of Lords.-Early years:...

 said, “such things as this ought to be left entirely to the moral feelings of perhaps the most moral people on the face of the earth.”

Ultimately the Factory Act 1819, which was not Owen’s Bill, was passed. It provided that “no child shall be employed for the spinning of cotton into yarn … until he shall have attained the full age of 9 years” and “no person under 18 shall be employed in the spinning of cotton wool into yarn for more than 12 hours, exclusive of the necessary time taken for meals”. Owen was disillusioned but even this inadequate measure would not have become law but for him.

The next major effort took place when about a decade later Michael Sadler prepared new legislation to restrict hours of work but before it could go before Parliament he was disenfranchised as a result of changes brought about by the 1832 Reform Act. It was then that Lord Shaftsbury was approached to lead the movement. He accepted. He put forward a Ten Hour Bill, the first in the long struggle to achieve that basic benchmark. The opposition proved overwhelming. But Lord Althorp an opponent of the measure introduced an amending Bill designed in some way to accommodate Shaftesbury’s position. The Factory Act 1833 provided that no person under 18 should be employed for more than 12 hours in any day or for more than 69 hours in a week. Manufacturers bitterly opposed this modified measure and, to circumvent it, introduced the relay system so that one set of children worked from 5.30 to 1.30 and the next from 1.30 to 8.30.

In 1842 a Royal Commission reported on conditions in the mines which profoundly affected public opinion. The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1842 which Shaftsbury pursued in Parliament prohibited the employment of girls and women in mines altogether.

The crisis in Factory legislation came to a head with a renewed attempt at a Ten Hour Bill, the basic aspiration of the workers. Factory and Mill owners opposed the measure. The whole issue became entangled with the repeal of the Corn Laws
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barriers designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 and repealed by the Importation Act 1846...

. The Bill was fought at every stage. A magnificent speech by Macaulay heaping scorn on the ‘freedom of contract’ arguments of Bright, Cobden and Pease was of immense importance in the debate but all the humanitarians – Shaftesbury, Oastler, Fielden and others were instrumental in securing passage of the Bill. It became law on the 1st May 1848. Employers set about circumventing it and for a time were successful. It was not until July 1850 that the Ten Hour working day became a reality.

The importance of the humanitarian movement in the fight for humane working conditions in industrial England did not cease with the Ten Hour Bill. Shaftesbury secured protection for chimney sweepers in the Chimney Sweepers Act 1877. But humanitarianism became more directed to philanthropy than legislative reform.

In England the claims of the worker were pursued by the Trade Unions and the Labour Party in Parliament. On the Continent industrialisation began later. By 1848 the Communist Manifesto had been published with a fully developed theory of revolutionary socialism. The rise of the working class on the continent began not with humanitarianism but with the Revolution or uprisings of 1848. In France the regulation of hours of work began in that year, in Belgium and Holland about the same time, in Germany somewhat later and still later in Italy and Austria.

The humanising of criminal punishments

Medieval punishments were cruel and, in many respects, that remained the position in the 18th century: hanging, drawing and quartering, beheading, boiling and lesser punishments designed only to humiliate such as the pillory and placing an offender in the stocks.

Reform was, in the first instance, a product of the Enlightenment. The reformer who led in this was the Italian, Cesare Beccaria. Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler CBE was a Hungarian author and journalist. Koestler was born in Budapest and, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria...

 has written of Beccaria that “there was perhaps no single humanist since Erasmus of Rotterdam who, without being attached to a definite political or religious movement, had such a deep effect on European thought.” He published his great work Dei Delitte e delle pene in 1764. Within a year his fame was worldwide.

Dei Delitte e delle pene was the first serious work devoted exclusively to the question of criminal justice. Beccaria emphasised the importance of certainty and of promptness in punishment if it were to be effective as a deterrent and proportionality if it was to be just. – that is, a due proportion between the seriousness of the crime and the punishment imposed. He opposed the doctrine of maximum severity. That doctrine had been greatly favoured especially in England upon the view that the sole object of criminal punishment was prevention. Whether the penalty was proportionate to the offence was of no great consequence. In Beccaria’s view maximum severity only hardened criminals and bred impunity.

Beccaria corresponded with monarchs. Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 wrote a commentary to the first French edition of his work and was influential in disseminating his ideas. During his lifetime his proposals were embodied in the laws of Russia, Sweden, Austria, Tuscany and Greece. Becarria greatly influenced Frederick the Great and as a result of Frederick’s personal zeal the Prussian Criminal Code was revised and rationalised. The death penalty in Prussia was greatly reduced. On the 22 August 1772 Gustavus III of Sweden abolished torture and thereafter comprehensively revised the criminal code, the revision coming into effect on 20 January 1779. Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma...

 did not accept Becarria’s ideas but her sons Joseph and Leopold, did. Joseph II who succeeded his mother thoroughly revised the Austrian Code. The revised code came into force on the 13th January 1787 and was the first to abolish capital punishment for every offence other than treason or murder. Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany passed an edict putting Becarria’s ideas into effect. In 1791 the French reflected his influence in a new penal code.

To these general developments there was one exception. England. As Koestler has written, “through more than a century England ran against the current”. In 1688 there were about 50 capital offences in England. Between 1660 and 1819 these increased greatly and 187 capital offences were enacted. Death was the only punishment for these offences although many differed greatly in seriousness. To avoid uncertainty the Courts were allowed no discretion for extenuating circumstances. This extremity even extended to children. As late as 1831 a boy aged 9 was publicly hanged at Chelmsford for having set fire to a house. During the 18th century, transportation was the only alternative to death for most offences.

There are three explanations for this severity. England was the first country to experience industrialisation, rapid population growth and urban congestion. During the 19th century London’s population had increased by 1 million to 6.7 million. Crime festered. It was estimated that towards the end of the previous century there were 8000 receivers of stolen property in the city. Second, England had no organized police force and resolutely refused to have one, until finally in 1829 Peel succeeded in its establishment. Thirdly, the English criminal justice procedures, including the jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 system, in the 18th century, were favourable to the accused.

Against the background of an absence of organized law enforcement and liberal criminal procedures, penalties were savagely increased. This and the inflexible imposition of the death penalty had its philosophic support in the doctrine of maximum severity espoused by a number of English writers of whom the best known was William Paley
William Paley
William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy .-Life:Paley was Born in Peterborough, England, and was...

. In 1785, the Reverend Martin Madan published Thoughts on Executive Justice urging the doctrine of maximum severity. Samuel Romilly
Samuel Romilly
Sir Samuel Romilly , was a British legal reformer.-Background and education:Romilly was born in Frith Street, Soho, London, the second son of Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller...

 (1757–1818) who had been greatly influenced by Becarria published a reply in which he strongly criticised the doctrine.

But at the end of the century the ‘bloody code’ was still intact. The struggle for its repeal took place between 1808 and 1837. In 1808, when Romilly was contemplating his great campaign the number of capital statutes stood at 220. He proceeded cautiously. In February 1810 he introduced separate Bills to repeal three Acts, all of which imposed the death penalty: the first was for stealing privately in a shop for 5 shillings; the second for stealing in a dwelling house to the value of 40 shillings and the third for the same amount on navigable rivers.

Speaking on this measure in the House of Lords, Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough
Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough
Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough PC KC was an English judge. After serving as a Member of Parliament and Attorney General, he became Lord Chief Justice.-Early life:...

 said “I trust your Lordships will pause before you assent to an experiment pregnant with danger to the security of property …” Despite a brilliant speech by Romilly, all Bills were defeated. But his Bill to repeal capital punishment for theft in a dwelling was defeated by only two votes.

In 1811 Romilly re-introduced the three Bills which had failed and introduced two others, one of which sought the repeal of the death penalty for stealing 10 shillings from bleaching grounds. This Bill proved to be important because it was supported by 150 bleaching ground proprietors who claimed that juries were refusing to convict where the death penalty would be imposed.

Romilly’s Bill for repeal of the death penalty for stealing in a shop to the value of five shillings was passed by the Commons, but defeated in the Lords on six occasions: 1811,1813,1816, 1818 and 1820. Romilly did not live to see the Bill passed. In the course of his life he succeeded in getting only three capital statutes repealed. He suicided, a defeated man a few days after his wife’s death in 1818. But soon after, resistance began to crumble. Petitions from enterprises concerned with the number of acquittals, such as those from the bleaching ground proprietors, forced a Committee to be set up in 1819.

Its recommendations were moderate but still the Lords held out. Bentham added his great influence to reform. In the end it was not until 1837 that the death penalty was substantially reduced but by 1861,it was imposed in the case of only four offences – treason, murder, piracy and arson in the dock yards. Other changes reflected the humanitarian influence:- In 1814 the sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering for treason was modified to remove the cutting down and disembowelling. Only in 1870 was quartering formally abolished; in 1815 the pillory was abolished for some offences and, finally, altogether in 1837; in 1820 the whipping of females was abolished;in 1822 the practice of dissecting the bodies of murderers was done away with; in 1857 transportation was abolished;in 1872 the last offender was placed in the stocks. But one medieval inhumanity lingered after the death penalty was reduced. This was the public execution, at which up to 100,000 might attend. Public executions were not finally abolished until 1868.

Prison reform

In the 18th century, prisons were, in the words of Henry Fielding, ‘sewers of idleness’. Prisons were farmed out to private persons whose object was simply to make a profit. “Women were thrown in the same common ward as men; first offenders with hardened recidivists; inoffensive civil debtors with muggers... ten year old boys with homosexual rapists”.

The leading reformer was John Howard (prison reformer)
John Howard (prison reformer)
John Howard was a philanthropist and the first English prison reformer.-Birth and early life:Howard was born in Lower Clapton, London. His father, also John, was a wealthy upholsterer at Smithfield Market in the city...

 whose great work, The State of Prisons in England and Wales with preliminary observations and an account of some foreign prisons was published in 1777. Howard was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and was shocked by the horrors of prison life and the callousness of gaolers. Not only were gaols indescribably dirty but were so overcrowded that great numbers of prisoners died each year from gaol fever.

In his work, Howard argued that prisons should be sanitary and secure. The keeper should be the paid servant of Justices. There should be separate cells for sleeping, in order to break down the corruption that came from the random aggregation of prisoners. Prisoners should have useful work to do in proper workshops.

Romilly, then a young man, was greatly influenced by Howard. Writing to a friend John Roget in 1781 he said of Howard, “ the author .. made a visit to every prison and house of correction in England with invincible perseverance and courage; for some of the prisons were so infected by diseases and putrid air that he was obliged to hold a cloth steeped in vinegar to his nostrils .. and to change his clothes the moment he returned. After having devoted so much time to his painful employment here, he set out on a tour through a great part of Holland, Germany and Switzerland to visit their prisons…”.

From the 1770s to 1791 statutes were enacted designed to give effect to Howard’s views and proposals but the Justices responsible for their implementation failed to do so. It was not until Peel’s Gaol Act of 1823 that a foundation was laid for a humane prison system.

After Howard’s death in 1790 the leading reformer was Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845) who began visiting Newgate, which was particularly infamous for its treatment of women prisoners. She arranged for food and clothing and with material she provided taught them how to make clothes.

Prison reform has had many vicissitudes. Some of the early theories of reform with their emphasis on solitary confinement in reaction to the 18th century congregating of prisoners, were erroneous. Nevertheless, the great divide in prison reform is, without question, the humanitarian reforms of the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Abolition of torture

Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 which had been permitted by law and implemented throughout continental Europe, was abolished in every European country throughout the 18th century. This achievement was the work of the Enlightenment: Beccaria and Voltaire being the leaders.

By the 12th and 13th centuries primitive modes of trial were breaking down. Proof of guilt had been established by magical means such as the Ordeal. At the Fourth Council of the Lateran
Fourth Council of the Lateran
The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull of April 19, 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome's Lateran Palace beginning November 11, 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity...

 in 1215 Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

 prohibited trial by ordeal and forbade ecclesiastics from taking part in it. New criminal procedures for determining guilt were needed. This was the precipitating cause for the use of torture on the continent. Innocent III had approved inquisitorial process in ecclesiastical courts and this now became extended to the civil jurisdiction. The essence of the inquisitorial procedure is that the trial is an inquiry to find the truth which is to be carried out by a process of interrogation. Torture was applied as a supplement to the new inquisitorial procedure. It came to be the prime method of extorting evidence. It was hardest in Germany and Italy but was also very much a feature of French law.

When Becarria wrote in the 18th century on torture, rationalism combined with humanitarianism to lead in the same direction as it had regarding criminal punishments. Becarria said of torture that “it to confound all relations to expect that a man should be both accuser and accused and that pain should be the test of truth, as though truth resided in the muscles and fibres of a wretch under torture.”

It was, however, the deep sense of outrage throughout France which followed the case of Jean Calas
Jean Calas
Jean Calas was a merchant living in Toulouse, France, famous for having been the victim of a biased trial due to his being a Protestant. In France, he is a symbol of Christian religious intolerance, along with Jean-François de la Barre and Pierre-Paul Sirven.Calas, along with his wife, was a...

 that led to the abolition of torture in that country. Jean Calas had been tortured and cruelly executed – all four of his limbs being broken in two places. He was then strangled and burnt at the stake. He was accused of murdering his son, supposedly in a rage over his son’s plan to convert to Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

. To the end he proclaimed his innocence: in fact his son had suicided. Voltaire was approached. At first Voltaire regarded the case simply as confirmation of his contempt for all Christians. If Calas were innocent, his death was an indictment of his Catholic executioners. If he were guilty it demonstrated the fanaticism of the Protestants. But soon Voltaire saw the case as much more than religious propaganda. He wanted to find the truth. Before long he had become convinced that Jean Calas had been the victim of judicial murder and he set about to rehabilitate his memory. He engaged lawyers to search out new evidence and press the authorities. He solicited funds to help the destitute Calas family. He wrote moving accounts of the case and mounted a campaign against the French legal system. Finally, three years after the execution, Jean Calas was cleared of the crime.

By the late 18th century no sovereign could appear enlightened if torture were permitted within his or her dominions. In France torture was abolished by an Ordanance of 9 October 1789. Catherine II, acknowledging the influence of Voltaire and Becarria, included in the Instructions for the preparation of a Criminal Code (1776), a declaration that all punishments by which the body is maimed ought to be abolished. In Tuscany torture was abolished by the Grand Duke, Peter Leopold in 1786 largely as a result of Becarria’s lucid indictment of torture and the death penalty. This was followed in other Italian states. Frederick the Great effectively abolished torture in Prussia in 1740 although this was not formalised until 1805. Other German states followed Prussia. A petition against torture was presented to the Austrian emperor by Joseph von Sonnenfels
Joseph von Sonnenfels
Joseph von Sonnenfels was an Austrian and German jurist and novelist. He was among the leaders of the Illuminati movement in Austria, and a close friend and patron of Mozart. He is also the dedicatee of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 15, Op...

 (1773–1817). Torture was abolished. The Austrian Netherlands (1797) and the United Provinces (1798) followed suit. Sweden had previously abolished torture in 1734. One by one other countries followed. It was a great triumph for the humanitarian movement.

England followed a different course and the abolition of torture is to be attributed to different causes. When Innocent III effectively abolished Ordeal in 1215 England was not faced with the same predicament as continental Europe to find a new criminal procedure and a new mode of proof. Earlier, King Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 (1154–1189) had adopted the jury as a means of resolving land disputes and then more generally. When Ordeal was abolished, English Judges who went on circuit, cast about for a new mode of trial and naturally turned to the already established process of trial by jury.

But there was a difference in this procedure much more fundamental than in the kind of bodies determining guilt. The inquisitorial method on the continent was a judicial inquiry to find the truth. The English system was always accusatorial, that is, the Crown presented a case to the jury against the accused. It lay upon the Crown to prove that case. The Court’s function was not to find the truth but whether the Crown had sustained the allegations it had made.

In such a procedure there is no place for torture or other process to compel a confession. This was the principal reason that the common law rejected torture quite early. A further factor was that heresy was less common in England and although torture was by no means confined to heresy, it was typical of such an inquiry.

But it was only the common law that gave effect to this prohibition and it was only in the common law courts, where the accusatorial mode prevailed, that it applied. The Crown could under its prerogative create Prerogative Courts in which the process was inquisitorial. These courts survived until the English revolution of the 17th century. Torture was used in these courts.

In the 17th century there was a reaction against inquisitorial procedures. In the first instance this reaction was upon constitutional grounds in which the common law asserted paramountcy over the prerogative, but there was too a revulsion against the use of torture. This came to a head in what was almost the last case of torture in England, the case of John Felton in 1628. Felton had murdered the Duke of Buckingham and on arrest freely admitted the crime. Before trial he was brought before the Council and urged to confess who had incited him to commit the murder. He denied that anyone had done so. The report of the Council proceeding at which the King was present, is as follows:
“Dr Laud, Bishop of London, being then at the Council Table, told him if he would not confess he must go to the rack. Felton replied, ‘if it must be so he could not tell whom he might not nominate in the extremity of torture, and if what he should say then must go for truth, he could not tell which of their Lordships he might name for torture might draw unexpected things from him. After this he was asked no more questions but sent back to prison.”

The Council then debated whether the law of the land would justify putting Felton to the rack and the King directed that before any such thing should be done the advice of the Judges should be taken. On 13 November the King formally asked the Judges whether by law Felton might not be racked ‘and whether there was any law against it’, for said the King ‘if it might be done by law he would not use prerogative in this point’. On the next day all the Judges assembled at Serjeant’s Inn Fleet street and agreed unanimously that Felton ought not to be tortured on the rack ‘for no such punishment is known or allowed by our law’. There were one or two cases of torture after this but in 1641 the Court of Star Chamber
Star Chamber
The Star Chamber was an English court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641. It was made up of Privy Counsellors, as well as common-law judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters...

 was abolished and with it torture in England.

It is apparent that the abolition of torture in English law was not, as on the continent, attributable to the humanitarian movement but to the early development of conceptions of the rule of law which became embedded in the common law.

The treatment of the mentally ill

Bedlam was the hospital for the insane in 18th century London. On quiet nights the noise of the confined lunatics “rattling in their chains and making a terrible outcry echoed across the city”. During the day the inmates were on view for curious London sightseers who paid to walk around the grounds enjoying the antics of the mad. It was understandable therefore that William Hogarth
William Hogarth
William Hogarth was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects"...

, in his drawings of A Rake's Progress
A Rake's Progress
A Rake's Progress is a series of eight paintings by 18th century English artist William Hogarth. The canvases were produced in 1732–33 then engraved and published in print form in 1735...

, should have depicted Tom Rakewell as ending his days in Bedlam
Bethlem Royal Hospital
The Bethlem Royal Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located in London, United Kingdom and part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Although no longer based at its original location, it is recognised as the world's first and oldest institution to specialise in mental illnesses....

. What was, on the face of it surprising, was that men such as Dr Johnson and Boswell
James Boswell
James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck was a lawyer, diarist, and author born in Edinburgh, Scotland; he is best known for the biography he wrote of one of his contemporaries, the English literary figure Samuel Johnson....

 and Sir Richard Steele would have visited Bedlam. Steele, having to look after three schoolboys took them '‘to see the lions, the tombs, Bedlam and other places that are entertainment for raw minds’. In the final decades of the 18th century the Enlightenment had failed to make any significant impact on this area of inhumanity.

The medieval understanding of mental abnormality was ignorant and superstitious. More than 1500 years had elapsed since the Greek doctors, under the influence of Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

 had examined illness as a natural process. In the case of insanity the Greeks differentiated between paranoia, dementias, hypochondrias and other mental disease. Soranus, an Alexandrian physician of the 1st century, carefully examined mental illness as an illness. In the 5th century St Augustine ascribed disease to demons. The behaviour of the psychotic often suggested to everyday observation that the soul is possessed by some alien force and thus because the mentally ill were thought to be afflicted by the devil they were treated by exorcism. Other treatments of a more or less benign character included shaving a cross in the person’s hair or the tying of the person to the rood-screen in the church so that the mental condition might be improved by hearing Mass.

The treatment of the insane in the Middle Ages was not deliberately cruel or at least not invariably so. The use of St Mary of Bethlehem hospital for the insane from the 14th century indicates a concern and ‘Poor Mad Men of Bethlehem’ received an increasing number of bequests for their maintenance from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Even in early English criminal law, ‘ absolute madness’ was a defence to an alleged crime. Theologically, the church never denied that the insane (except for certain monsters at birth) possessed a soul. But the notion of diabolical infection dominated attitudes and if “the mad proved to be troublesome they could expect to be beaten or locked up.”

The Greek spirit of rationalism survived in medieval Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and, in regard to the insane, Muslim physicians and psychologists relied mostly upon clinical observation, not demonological explanation. The Arab physician, Najab ud-din Muhammad described a number of mental illnesses such as agitated depression and neurosis. In the 11th century the Persian physician, Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

, was a pioneer in neuropsychiatry
Neuropsychiatry is the branch of medicine dealing with mental disorders attributable to diseases of the nervous system. It preceded the current disciplines of psychiatry and neurology, in as much as psychiatrists and neurologists had a common training....

 and was the first to describe such conditions as hallucination, mania, melancholia, dementia, stroke and tremor.

The 17th century scientific revolution in Europe influenced physiology with such notable discoveries as the circulation of the blood and the existence of microbes. It was accepted that the cause of disease was not magical or demonic. But little immediate progress was made in the field of mental illness.

Foremost in bringing about humanitarian change was Dr Phillipe Pinel (1745–1826). Pinel was physician to Biutre prison in Paris where a large number of lunatics were kept. An incident occurring to a friend led him to his life’s work. The friend suddenly lost his mental balance and, as was customary, was locked up in the asylum. He managed to escape from his cage and took refuge in the woods. A week later his body was found half devoured by wolves. Pinel decided to devote himself to the study of insanity.

What then took place is described by Kenneth Walker in his The Story of Medicine: "Even in Pinel’s time the insane were regarded as being deliberately malicious and many people still attributed their behaviour to their possession by a devil. If, therefore, exorcism failed, the correct treatment was to punish them for their stubbornness in clinging to evil. Pinel reacted with all his being against this medieval idea of possession for he was convinced that the insane were sick people in need of treatment." In his campaign for humane treatment of the insane he approached Couthon the leader of the Paris Commune who agreed to visit Biutre because he believed strongly in the ideal of equality of human beings. "As he tramped with his guide through the damp underground corridors of the dark prison he was greeted by the ravings and the curses of 300 mad men and was deafened by the pounding of their manacles against iron bars." Pinel insisted on his wish to set some of these patients free. Couthon, despite thinking Pinel an impractical visionary, agreed. Then came the dramatic moment when Pinel freed an English captain who had lived in chains for forty years and had, despite that, killed a prison attendant with a blow from his manacles. Pinel talked to him at length, persuading him to behave if freed. “Within the space of a few days, Pinel had the chains removed from more than fifty men who had hitherto been regarded as dangerous madmen … because they were being treated kindly they ceased to be rebellious and disorderly”. Pinel did away with the old violent methods of treatment such as bleeding, purging and blistering. He published his Trait Medico- Philosophique sur L’asientation Mentale ou la Manie in 1801. It is one of the classics of psychiatry and did much to end ‘the moral treatment of the mad’.

About 1800 attitudes towards the insane began to change. It became accepted that insanity was not diabolically caused but, like other disease, fell within the realm of medical explanation and medical treatment. The science of abnormal psychology was born. This in turn led to the insane being recognized as human beings in need of care and active compassion. It also led to the assumption of responsibility by the State for the provision of organized care. Shortly before the end of the 18th century the Society of Friends opened a hospital for the insane at York. It was the first in England to treat the insane with humane methods. The success of the York hospital aroused public feeling and support. Lord Shaftesbury (then Lord Ashley) set out to reform the chaotic and inhumane system of lunatic asylums which then existed. Lunacy Commissioners were to be appointed. The House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 obstructed the passage of the Improvement Bill but in 1828 a Bill was enacted providing for supervision by Metropolitan Commissioners.

Of the humanitarians who led in this field the most prominent were the Tuke family. It was William Tuke
William Tuke
William Tuke was an English businessman, philanthropist and Quaker. He was instrumental in the development of more humane methods in the custody and care of people with mental disorders, an approach that came to be known as moral treatment.-Career:Tuke was born in York to a leading Quaker family...

 who had in 1792 proposed the establishment of the Retreat at York under the management of Friends. His grandson, Samuel Tuke (1784–1857) published the very influential work in 1815, Practical hints on the Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums and Daniel Tuke (1827–1895), with J.C. Bucknill, published A Manual of Psychological Medicine which, for a long period, was the standard work in the area.

Legislation placed the care of the insane on an organized and humane basis. In England, the Lunacy Act 1890 provided that subject to a limited number of exceptions no lunatic could be lawfully detained against his will except by order of an authorised person and by law. Provision was made for asylums and for their frequent inspection. Unnecessary restraint of a lunatic was an offence.

It was discovered through experience that isolation of the insane in institutions was not in fact a sound way to treat them. Successful treatment required a friendlier environment and, in some cases, involvement in the wider community. Gradually asylums were dismantled. The pejorative description ‘lunatic’ was replaced by ‘a person of unsound mind’ in 1930 and a ‘mentally disordered person’ in 1959.

The study of psychology as a field of study separate from philosophy began towards the end of the 19th century. Experimentation on mental behaviour commenced with Weber. In 1899 Emil Kraepelin
Emil Kraepelin
Emil Kraepelin was a German psychiatrist. H.J. Eysenck's Encyclopedia of Psychology identifies him as the founder of modern scientific psychiatry, as well as of psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics. Kraepelin believed the chief origin of psychiatric disease to be biological and genetic...

 identified the condition dementia praecox in which a person loses touch with reality and distinguished it from the manic depressive psychosis. From this point modern psychology developed.

The 20th century culminated in the intersection of reformist and philanthropic humanitarianism in the treatment of the insane. The rational recognition that the insane are fully human, are not diabolically controlled and manipulated and the legislative provision to protect and rehabilitate them all belong within the traditions of the humanitarian movement, combining care with reason.

Humanitarianism and the treatment of women in the 19th century

In England, in 1800, the rights of a woman devolved upon her husband on marriage. She could not make a Will or be party to a contract or appear in court. The wife’s personal chattels automatically became the property of her husband. As John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

, writing in the 1860s said, “she could acquire no property but for him, the instant it becomes hers even if by inheritance, it becomes ipso facto his.” The husband’s authority to chastise her physically had been modified somewhat since Blackstone had written in the 18th century but she had almost no legal redress even if treated brutally. “ Husbands”, Mill wrote, “indulge the utmost habitual excesses of bodily violence towards the unhappy wife who alone, at least of grown persons, can neither repel or escape from the brutality”. For all practical purposes divorce was unobtainable. The only judicial decree available was judicial separation which left the parties married but physically separated. In that event, her husband had an almost absolute right to the custody of the children. John Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst
John Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst
John Singleton Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst PC KS FRS , was a British lawyer and politician. He was three times Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.-Background and education:...

 on the second reading of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857
Matrimonial Causes Act 1857
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 was an Act of Parliament passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act reformed the law on divorce, moving litigation from the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts to the civil courts, establishing a model of marriage based on contract rather than...

 described the wife’s condition on separation as “almost a state of outlawry”. In Mill’s description a married woman was “the actual bond servant of her husband.” He stated the situation of women very precisely: “The social subordination of women thus stands out as an isolated fact in modern social institutions …. A single relic of an old world of thought and practice exploded in everything else. For what is the peculiar character of the modern world – the difference which clearly distinguishes modern institutions, modern social ideas, modern life itself, from those times long past? It is that human beings are no longer born to their place in life and chained down by an inexorable bond to the place they are born to, but are free to employ their faculties.”

The first stirring of feminism occurred at the time of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book...

, then about 33, published Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. It was a clear and articulate rejection of the subordination of women, a protest against the assumption that “women were only the plaything of men”. It was the first feminist work written and its publication caused an outcry.

Just before the middle of the 19th century there was action. In 1838 the Chartists included female suffrage among their proposals. Mrs Henry Reed published A Plea for Women (1843). A spate of pamphlets demanding suffrage for women followed. In 1857 Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

 returned from the Crimea to establish the nursing profession and in the same year the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed allowing for divorce by the wife on the ground of a repeated act of adultery (the husband would be entitled in the event of a single act of adultery by the wife).

In 1869 Mill published The Subjection of Women
The Subjection of Women
The Subjection of Women is the title of an essay written by John Stuart Mill in 1869, possibly jointly with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill, stating an argument in favour of equality between the sexes...

, a sustained and brilliant protest at the inequality and inhumanity of the condition in which society had placed women. The book was, as Mill had expected, ridiculed. And yet it became the philosophic base of the 19th century women’s movement. Mill called for the removal of all disabilities imposed upon women and “the opening to them of all honourable employments, and the training and education which qualifies for those employments”..” Mill was not alone. He was supported by the Christian Socialists and by Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley was an English priest of the Church of England, university professor, historian and novelist, particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire.-Life and character:...

, Charles Dilke and John Morely.
But remember the date of this evening. April 6th 1867. At Westminster only one week before John Stuart Mill had seized an opportunity in one of the early debates on the Reform Bill that now was the time to given equal rights at the ballot box. His brave attempt (the motion was defeated by 196 to 73, Disraeli the old fox abstaining) was greeted with smiles from the average man, guffaws from Punch (one joke showed a group of gentlemen besieging a female Cabinet Minister, haw haw haw), and disappearing frowns from a sad majority of educated women, who maintained that their influence was best exerted from home. Nevertheless, March 30, 1867, is the point from which we can date the beginning of feminine emancipation in England.

In 1869, the year in which Mill’s work was published, Sophia Jex-Blake
Sophia Jex-Blake
Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake was an English physician, teacher and feminist. She was one of the first female doctors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, a leading campaigner for medical education for women and was involved in founding two medical schools for women, in London and in...

 was given permission to attend medical lectures at Edinburgh university. Male students were furious and what became known as the ‘Riot of Surgeon’s Hill’ occurred when female students were pelted with mud and sheep were ushered into the lecture theatre. Cambridge began admitting women in the 1870s. Oxford was slower but was the first to allow women to take degrees. Primary and secondary education had hitherto been denied to women but the Education Act 1870 imposed compulsory education for girls as well as boys. In 1882, with the enactment of the Married Women’s Property Act married women became able to retain and own beneficially their separate property.

In the fields of divorce and maintenance that the wife remained in an oppressively unequal position. So much so that the European novel of the latter part of the 19th century depicted the ‘prison’ in which the wife was confined and the tragic consequences: Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger...

 suicides, Tess of the d'Urbevilles is executed for murder and Irene Forsyte only escapes from her unhappiness after her distracted lover is killed.

Adultery was the only ground for divorce in the 1857 Act. Desertion or cruelty by the husband provided no grounds nor did his insanity. Maintenance was always difficult to obtain and for 30 years after the Divorce Act payment of maintenance would be ordered in favour of an innocent wife only so long as she remained chaste. Only in the last quarter of the 20th century were these inequalities modified and removed. By 1950 husband and wife were in an approximate state of equality in matrimonial law.

Despite Mill’s pioneering work and that of others, women in England still had no vote in 1900. Certain European countries, New Zealand (1893), South Australia (1894) and Western Australia (1899) and a number of American states had allowed women to vote but not England. After John Stuart Mill’s death in 1874 suffrage Bills continued to be introduced but were just as regularly defeated.

The Women’s Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement which helped women win the right to vote...

 in 1903 was a militant movement. What followed was a succession of protests, more or less violent. Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

’s house was damaged by a bomb. Women chained themselves to Parliament, sat opposite the doorstep of 10 Downing Street and in 1906 interrupted the King’s opening speech to Parliament. Pankhurst and others went to prison. Emily Davidson lost her life when she threw herself under the King’s horse on Derby Day.

The First World War intervened. Women rallied to the war effort becoming nurses and bus drivers. They replaced men in the factories. In 1916, Asquith overwhelmed by the evidence of feminine capacity relented and agreed to legislation. Legislation assented to on the 6th February 1918 women were granted the vote and allowed to sit in parliament and by related legislation in 1919 became entitled to hold civil and judicial office. Other western countries followed a different course but the result was similar.

It is apparent that, with the women’s movement of the 19th century, the humanitarian movement for reform intersects with the human rights movement. A question arises whether it more properly falls within one or the other. The origins of each movement were more or less contemporaneous. They both depended upon natural law and the spiritual equality of human beings which that implied. They also both depended on the re-emergence of natural law upon secular foundations. The rise of natural rights involved turning natural ‘law’ in the direction of ‘rights’. It was these ‘rights’ which were relied upon in the great revolutions – English, American and French—of the 17th and 18th centuries. Both also derived from natural law the paramountcy of their claims over the State and positive law.

But there are differences. The humanitarian movement was concerned with ‘wrongs’. Unlike ‘rights’ the duties breached by these wrongs did not depend upon the exercise of a right by a right-holder. The duties were near-absolute. As mentioned,the humanitarian movement and human rights are closely related in the case of the women's movement.Mary Wollstonecraft sought “the vindication of the rights of women” and the ‘right to vote’, the franchise, is properly describable as a ‘right’.But when we look at the situation of women in the 19th century when the women’s movement began it was not just the deprival of this or that right. Women, as a class of human beings, had been singled out and as a class were, as John Stuart Mill said, in ‘a state of actual bondage’. They had a status of subordination. Status implies that a defined class of human beings in the community has, collectively, by virtue of membership of that class, different and unequal rights. Status may as in the case of children or the insane be protective but, in other instances such as slavery or serfdom, status is a badge of inferiority. That was the position of women at the beginning of the 19th century.

Prevention of cruelty to animals

Before the 19th century cruelty to animals was quite generally indulged in for popular amusement.

King Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 was himself very fond of cock-fighting as was King James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

. James appointed a special cock-master to breed and train his cocks. Sometimes a brandy was given just before a fight to provoke their spirit. In 1607 a Norfolk vicar wrote a commendation of the sport. Puritans protested but they did not do so on the ground of cruelty but because cock-fights were held on a Sunday. Cock fighting continued until well into the 19th century, often in conjunction with horse racing. As late as June 1, 1822, the Times advertised, “A main of cocks will be fought on Monday 3 June at the Cockpit Royal Tyburn Street Westminster between the gentlemen of Middlesex and Shropshire for five guineas a battle and fifty guineas for the best battler”. A variant of cock-fighting was the throwing of cocks in which the cock was partly buried in the ground or fastened to a stake and stoned to death.

In the 17th century a special amphitheatre was built at Paris Gardens, Southwark, for bull and bear-baiting. Seating was provided for 1000 spectators. Later, a second ring was built exclusively for bear-baiting. In villages, a bear would be chained to a stake on a village green and set upon by dogs.

Maltreatment of animals was due partly to cruelty and partly to indifference. Nevertheless, it was encouraged, or at least, not discouraged by European thought. The stoics who advanced European ethics so much in the idea of the spiritual equality of human beings taught that this applied only to rational creatures and thus did not apply to non-human animals.

The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 ethic of compassion embraced animals.

The Pauline position was reinforced by the authority of St Augustine in the 5th century:
Christ himself shows that to refrain from the killing of animals and the destroying of plants is the height of superstition for, judging that there were no common rights between us and the beasts and trees, who sent devils into swine and with a curse withered the tree on which he found no fruit.” St Augustine observed that “the swine had not sinned nor had the tree.

A writer in Europe to condemn cruelty to animals as a wrong in itself was the French essayist, Montaigne (1533–1599). In his essay on Cruelty, he wrote that “we have a general duty to be humane to animals” and it is a presumption that man “withdraws and separates himself from the crowd of other creatures”. In the 18th century David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 argued that human intelligence and animal intelligence functioned in the same way. He said that “we should be bound by the laws of humanity to give gentle usage to those creatures”. It was not a matter of mere justice. It is not, Hume said, “the cautious, jealous virtue of justice” but humanity. Hume led to Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

. More than anyone else it was Bentham and his philosophy and active persistence that resulted in a changed attitude towards animals. “The question” said Bentham in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, “is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?”

In 1811, Lord Erskine (1750–1823) in a speech before the House of Lords, portrayed the cruelties inflicted upon animals and asked for protective legislation. In 1821, Richard Martin, a land-owner in Galway, proposed a law to prevent the ill-treatment of horses. The Bill was laughed out of the Commons. In the next year he secured passage of the Ill-treatment of Cattle Bill. It prohibited the cruel treatment of cattle and provided for the imposition of a fine of 5 pounds or imprisonment for 3 months for any person who wantonly and cruelly beat, abused or ill-treated any horse, mare, ox,sheep or other cattle.

There was however nobody to enforce the legislation. On 16 June 1824 Martin and a number of other humanitarians formed a society which had as its immediate purpose the gathering of evidence of the maltreatment of animals. Among the first members were the evangelicals William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was a British politician, a philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire...

 and Thomas Fowell Buxton
Thomas Fowell Buxton
Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet was an English Member of Parliament, brewer, abolitionist and social reformer....

. This Society later became the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a charity in England and Wales that promotes animal welfare. In 2009 the RSPCA investigated 141,280 cruelty complaints and collected and rescued 135,293 animals...

, being designated ‘Royal’ by Queen Victoria in 1840.It was the leader in campaigns against brutal sports, experimentation and other forms of cruelty to animals and it became active in the prevention of cruelty to children and the enactment of Prevention of Cruelty to Children legislation in 1884.

The Animal Prevention Society campaigned for improved prevention of cruelty to animals legislation building on the 1822 Act. In 1849 the Cruelty to Animals Act imposed forfeiture and penalties for the ill-treatment of animals. This law, together with the 1854 amendment, became the foundation of future legislation in England and the model for other common law countries. In 1876, further legislation extended the Cruelty to Animals Act to experimentation upon animals for scientific purposes, where the animal is alive and the experiments are calculated to inflict pain. Subsequent legislation regulated vivisection requiring it to take place at a registered place and for an approved purpose.

What Bentham had initiated and the humanitarian movement had achieved was more than legislation. Over the course of the next century there was a revolution in social attitudes to the treatment of animals throughout the European world. Henceforward cruelty to animals would occur but it was never defended.

Formation of the Red Cross and international humanitarian action

The formation of the Red Cross (The International Committee of the Red Cross) in 1863 to alleviate suffering resulting from war, is claimed to be "the world's first humanitarian organisation" , but is not the first instance of organized humanitarian action internationally. The Red Cross was also largely responsible for developing the other strand of international humanitarianism, the birth of international humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...


Prior to the Red Cross, humanitarian action internationally had been evident in the progressive abolition of slavery
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 during the 18th and 19th centuries. After abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain (1807), British cruisers intercepted foreign slave ships to prevent the trade. In 1885 the Treaty of Berlin forbade slave trading. Later, at the beginning of the 20th century, the world collectively denounced King Leopold II’s "Heart of Darkness" in the Congo and, as mentioned, international pressure forced him to yield his personal control. In 1926 the Slavery Convention confirmed that states had jurisdiction to punish slavers wherever apprehended.

The Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 (1854–1856) was the first European war for forty years. The British Army went to Crimea without a medical corps or medical service. In the barracks hospital at Scutari the spread of cholera, gangrene and dysentry raged uncontrolled. William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell was an Irish reporter with The Times, and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents, after he spent 22 months covering the Crimean War including the Charge of the Light Brigade.-Career:As a young reporter, Russell reported on a brief military...

 of The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, the first modern war correspondent, described the conditions. 25,000 lives had been lost. Public opinion was aroused. The Secretary for War persuaded Florence Nightingale who had administered a sanatarium in London to organize a corps of nurses to go to the Crimea. She did so and brought the death rate down by 40%. Her nursing corps became the foundation of modern nursing.

Attention became focused on the plight of the wounded. A terrible battle took place at Solferino in 1859 during the campaign by France and Piedmont against the Austrian empire. 300,000 soldiers fought; 6000 were killed and 30,000 were wounded in 15 hours. The wounded lay deserted because the retreating Austrians had taken all the carts and horses. A young Swiss banker, Henri Dunant witnessed the scene. As he later described it, “the wounded lay for days on the battlefield, bleeding to death, tormented by thirst, hunger, flies and the burning heat.” He saw the dead thrown into huge pits and was told some of the men were still alive when buried. Castiglione, the little town to where the wounded were eventually taken, was overwhelmed. The whole town had become a temporary hospital.

After returning home, Dunant recorded his experiences and in October 1862, published, at his own expense, A Memory to Solferino. Dunant did not suggest that what had happened was due in any way to lack of compassion but simply that there was no organization to cope. In the last pages of the work, he put forward the idea which led to the formation of the Red Cross. "It should be possible” he said "to form a society in every country when nations are at peace, from which men and women would be organized and trained so that they could give aid to the wounded in times of war”. He also proposed that some international principles be codified to regulate the treatment of the wounded in future wars and which would stipulate that friend and foe should receive equal treatment.

These proposals were taken up by Gustave Moynier
Gustave Moynier
Gustave Moynier was a Swiss Jurist who was active in many charitable organizations in Geneva.He was a co-founder of the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded", which became the International Committee of the Red Cross after 1876...

, a Swiss lawyer, of great energy, who formed a five man committee with himself as chairman and Dunant as secretary. As a result of their efforts representatives of 16 European states met in Geneva on the 16th October 1863 and formally established the Red Cross.

It proceeded to propose an international convention for the care of the wounded. A Convention for the Amelioration of the condition of armies in the Field was adopted in 1864 and within three years was ratified by 21 nations. It specified that all wounded be accorded humane treatment, that medical personnel, whether military or civilian volunteers, should be considered neutral and that anybody helping the wounded should be ‘respected and remain free’ and that personnel should wear the Red Cross on a White background. Red Cross societies multiplied.

Amelioration, in the words of the first Geneva Convention, has remained the Red Cross’s core function. In the first world war alone it transmitted two and a half million letters for prisoners of war. It re-united families who had been fighting. It arranged for the accommodation in neutral countries of sick and wounded combatants and for their subsequent repatriation. It visited the internment camps of all the warring parties and, after the war, was responsible for repatriating 450,000 prisoners of war from Central Europe and Russia.

In the many wars since, the Red Cross has performed a host of relief and welfare tasks. It was again providing assistance to the wounded, the sick and the prisoners-of-war in the Second World War. There was now a new dimension. The world was stunned by the number of civilians killed or injured in the Second World War. The number killed was a staggering 24 million. Millions of people scattered throughout Europe were homeless. After the second world war Europe “was faced with a tidal wave of refugees’. There were 9 million displaced persons in Germany alone, living in overcrowded conditions. The United Nations Refugee Relief Administration (UNRRA) was established to help them and assist in their resettlement. Slowly they were dispersed to Australia, Canada the United States and other countries. Non-Government organizations such as Oxfam
Oxfam is an international confederation of 15 organizations working in 98 countries worldwide to find lasting solutions to poverty and related injustice around the world. In all Oxfam’s actions, the ultimate goal is to enable people to exercise their rights and manage their own lives...

, formed during the war to alleviate distress in Greece, Save the Children
Save the Children
Save the Children is an internationally active non-governmental organization that enforces children's rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries...

 and Médecins Sans Frontières
Médecins Sans Frontières
' , or Doctors Without Borders, is a secular humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic diseases. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland...

 have, together with the Red Cross, carried forward the humanitarian impulse in this field.

The international protection of refugees hardly existed before the First World War and people faced difficulty in providing proof of identity identity but also there was no internationally agreed definition of ‘refugee’. Two early treaties of a limited character were entered into during the thirties, one specifically directed to refugees from Germany. The aftermath of the Second World War made the problem of refugees more urgent. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established in January 1951 and, in July of that year, the Status of Refugees Convention was opened for signature and ratification. It defined a ‘refugee’ as “ a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself for the protection of that country: or, who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”. A refugee cannot be returned or sent to a country where he or she may be persecuted.

Humanitarianism is particularly used to describe the thinking and doctrines behind emergency response to humanitarian crises. In such cases it argues for a humanitarian response based on humanitarian principles
Humanitarian principles
There are a number of meanings for the term humanitarian. Here humanitarian pertains to the practice of saving lives and alleviating suffering. It is usually related to emergency response whether in the case of a natural disaster or a man-made disaster such as war or other armed conflict...

, particularly the principle of humanity. Nicholas de Torrente, Executive Director of MSF-USA writes:
"The most important principles of humanitarian action are humanity, which posits the conviction that all people have equal dignity by virtue of their membership in humanity, impartiality, which directs that assistance is provided based solely on need, without discrimination among recipients, neutrality, which stipulates that humanitarian organizations must refrain from taking part in hostilities or taking actions that advantage one side of the conflict over another, and independence, which is necessary to ensure that humanitarian action only serves the interests of war victims, and not political, religious, or other agendas.
These fundamental principles serve two essential purposes. They embody humanitarian action’s single-minded purpose of alleviating suffering, unconditionally and without any ulterior motive. They also serve as operational tools that help in obtaining both the consent of belligerents and the trust of communities for the presence and activities of humanitarian organizations, particularly in highly volatile contexts."

The Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions

The Red Cross became the leading inspiration in the regulation by international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 of the conduct of war in a humane way. The international conventions protecting the wounded and sick members of armed forces on land (1864) and sea (1906) and prisoners-of-war (1929) were replaced by the four Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 of 1949 which supplemented and continued to provide the framework for regulating conduct in war.

The first and second Geneva Conventions provide for the humane care of sick and wounded combatants on land and sea without discrimination. Immunity is to be granted to hospitals, medical personnel and army chaplains and also to hospital ships. Provision was made for recognition of the Red Cross emblem. The third convention protects prisoners-of-war and in doing so revises the 1929 convention in the light of the second world war experience. Use of prisoners of war for military labour, for medical experiments or as objects of public insult or curiosity is forbidden. All prisoners-of-war are immune from prosecution for their behaviour as combatants unless they committed war crimes. Torture or any form of coercion to extract information are absolutely prohibited. The fourth Geneva Convention was new. It provides for the protection of civilian persons in time of war. Its aim is to secure the humane treatment of persons in occupied territories. They are entitled to respect for their customs and religion and particularly for their family ties. Women are guaranteed protection from rape and forced prostitution. Civilians must not be used as hostages or for reprisals; nor may they be used for forced labour or subject to mass deportation. Article 3 (common Article 3) is common to all conventions. It prohibits murder, hostage-taking, ‘outrages upon personal dignity’ and extrajudicial executions. In 1977 additional protocols sought to apply protection to armed conflict not of an international character.

International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

 has proceeded through a number of stages. These overlap. Originally, it was integrally bound up with ‘war’ but gradually it has become an independent field of legal control on humanitarian grounds.

The means and methods of war

The Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 were concerned with war and, at least at their inception, with the protection of those engaged in war. Subsequently, in the fourth convention of 1949, they included the protection of civilians from the consequences of war.

A second strand of international humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

, also initially related to war, sought to prescribe the means by which war might be conducted. Early steps in the evolution of this strand had begun in the latter part of the 19th century, following the American Civil
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and Crimean war
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

s, and prompted by fear of the loss of life and destruction caused by considerable improvements in weaponry. These efforts came together in the Hague Convention
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

 (1907). They were based upon two principles: that war should be restricted to combatants and any means adopted which offended that principle should be proscribed [This ancient principle had been articulated by Honore Bonet in the 15th century and was based upon the proposition that war was a relation between state and state and not between man and man]; second was the principle that the means to attain victory in war were not unlimited. This negative proscription became increasingly important as new weapons with increasing destructiveness were invented and developed.

The inter-war period consolidated these developments but initiated only the proscription of poison gas (1925). The attempt to control the aerial bombing of civilians was unsuccessful.

The Nuremberg Tribunal

Between November 1945 and October 1946, 22 high ranking Nazis
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 were tried at Nuremberg before an International Military Tribunal. This had been established by an Agreement in London (the London Agreement) in August 1945 by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and France. The Charter of the 8th August 1945,which established the Tribunal specified in Article 6 the offences to be tried. It distinguished between ‘war crimes’, i.e. violations of the laws and customs of war (which included maltreatment of the civilian population in occupied territories), and ‘crimes against humanity’.

‘Crimes against humanity’ were defined as ‘murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated.”

In its judgement the Tribunal said of the London Charter that “it is the expression of international law existing at the time of its (the Tribunal’s) creation. The ‘Martens clause’ in the Hague Convention 1907 extended to the protection of “the principles of the laws of nations as established by and prevailing among civilized nations, by the laws of humanity, and the demands of public conscience”.The laws of humanity were thus woven into customary international law: when denouncing the massacre of the Armenians in 1915, the allied governments accused the Turkish government of being responsible for ‘crimes against humanity and civilization”.

Nevertheless, the articulation of ‘crimes of humanity’ as a distinct category of offence expressly differentiated from ‘war crimes’ was a new development. Crimes could be committed by governments or approved by governments and these could occur ‘before or during the war’. The Nuremberg Tribunal did not however sever the link with war completely. Although the conduct might have taken place before the war, it needed to be connected with another specified crime within the jurisdiction of the tribunal i.e. a ‘war crime’ or ‘crime against peace’. However, in what became known as the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials of the Doctors, Judges and lesser officials, the Law of the Control Council, which established these tribunals, allowed for trials of crimes against humanity committed before and unconnected with the war and jurisdiction was exercised in regard to offences not linked to the war.

In December 1946 the United Nations General Assembly confirmed that the Nuremberg Charter and the reasoning of the Tribunal reflected the principles of international law. The Genocide Convention 1948 finally severed this aspect of international humanitarian law from ‘war crimes’ and from the need for a link with war.

The Genocide Convention 1948 made genocide an offence under international law. It is capable of being committed at any time, including times of peace. The offence is constituted by conduct committed with the intention, to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.The Convention was ratified by a large number of states and now, independently of treaty, forms part of customary international law.

The International Criminal Court

On the 17 July 1998 an International Conference at Rome adopted the Rome Statute for the establishment of an International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

. This followed many years of negotiation and discussion. The final vote was 120 in favour, 21 abstentions and 7 opposed.

The Statute came into force on the July 1, 2002 after the 60th state had ratified it. This was in fact quite speedy as each ratifying state had first to enact domestic legislation in accordance with the Statute. By 2008 more than 100 states have become parties to the Statute. Notable non-parties are the United States, China and Israel. Nevertheless, the degree of international consensus is such that the offences specified reflect customary international law.

In a single instrument the Statute sets out definitively “the most serious crimes” internationally: “genocide”, “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. It also includes the “crime of aggression” which will become operative when defined in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Statute.

The Statute consolidates many of the concepts of international humanitarian law. “Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

” is defined in the same terms as in the Genocide Convention 1948. The “war crimes” specified draw upon and incorporate the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. “Crimes against humanity” are constituted by the following ‘acts’: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment; torture; rape; enforced prostitution; forced pregnancy; enforced sterilisation; persecution on ethnic, racial, religious or other discriminatory grounds; the enforced disappearance of persons and apartheid. But these ‘acts’ will only constitute ‘crimes against humanity” when “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack.” No person is to be exempt for responsibility for these crimes because he or she was a head of state or held some other official position.

The Court is an independent, international body. It may however only exercise its jurisdiction where the relevant national court is unable or unwilling to proceed.

The right of humanitarian intervention - responsibility to protect

An inchoate development in the 19th century from the humanitarian impulse was the international right of humanitarian intervention. The right presupposed that a state or number of states could intervene in another state to prevent permitted, inhumane behaviour of a gross kind. It was inchoate and undeveloped because it was inconsistent with the axiomatic principle of international law – state sovereignty. Each state was sovereign within its territory and external intervention, without its concurrence, violated international law.

Nevertheless, suggestions of such a right go back to Grotius and Vattel in the 17th century. William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

 secured parliamentary approval to send ships to protect Christians from slaughter by Turks in Bulgaria in the late 19th century. In 1898 the United States declared war on Spain because its oppressive rule in Cuba “shocked the conscience of mankind.” And in his State of the Union address in 1904, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 claimed the right and duty to intervene in the case of crimes committed “on a vast scale”.

There were, however, clear difficulties in carving out an exception to the principle of sovereignty without undermining the rule of non-intervention. It was difficult to define with precision the degree of inhumanity which would justify intervention or to decide who could determine that.

The issue arose acutely because of the shame felt by the international community over the failure to take any action to prevent the massacre of the Tutsis by the Hutu
The Hutu , or Abahutu, are a Central African people, living mainly in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern DR Congo.-Population statistics:The Hutu are the largest of the three peoples in Burundi and Rwanda; according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians...

 in Rwanda
Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate...

 (1994). The right of intervention was invoked in the Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

 when Serbs sought to use terror to drive the ethnic majority from their homeland. Consideration of the right under international law at this time required that it be consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Charter. Article 2 (4) of the Charter provided that “all members shall refrain in their national relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Chapter VII of the Charter permitted the Security Council to authorise the use of force in the case of “a threat to international peace and security”.

It was in this context that between 14 and 16 September 2005 a United Nations Summit brought together 170 countries to discuss the question. The concept was re-named – ‘the right to humanitarian intervention’ being replaced by “the responsibility to protect
Responsibility to protect
The responsibility to protect is a norm or set of principles based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility. RtoP focuses on preventing and halting four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, which it places under the generic...

”. It was agreed that “ each individual state has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

 and crimes against humanity”. When a state fails to do so, “the international community, through the United Nations, also has responsibility”. The Agreement provides for collective action “in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with the relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

See also

  • Caring For The World Films
    Caring For The World Films
    Caring For The World Films is an American 501 3 non-profit video production company established in August 2009. It was founded by Debi Lang. CFTWF mission is to bring awareness to lesser known, but successful non-profit international humanitarian aid organizations...

  • Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies
    Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies
    The Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies consists of 15 UK based NGOs - ActionAid, Action Against Hunger, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, Helpage International, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Merlin, Oxfam GB, Plan International...

  • Human rights
    Human rights
    Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

  • Humanism
    Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

  • Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International
    Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International
    Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International is the humanitarian sector's first international self-regulatory body, working towards the promotion of "Humanitarian Accountability"...

  • Humanitarian aid
    Humanitarian aid
    Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

  • Humanitarian principles
    Humanitarian principles
    There are a number of meanings for the term humanitarian. Here humanitarian pertains to the practice of saving lives and alleviating suffering. It is usually related to emergency response whether in the case of a natural disaster or a man-made disaster such as war or other armed conflict...

  • Homaranismo
    Homaranismo is an Esperanto word used by its creator, Ludwig Zamenhof, to describe his philosophy of human interaction and behaviour. Based largely on the teachings of Hillel the Elder, a 1st century BCE rabbi, Zamenhof originally called this philosophy Hillelism...

  • Misanthrope (partial opposite)
  • Mundialization
    The word mundialisation, is the English version of the French word "mondialisation", which today refers in French to what is referred to in English as "globalisation"...

  • World citizen
    World citizen
    World citizen has a variety of similar meanings, often referring to a person who disapproves of traditional geopolitical divisions derived from national citizenship....

Further reading

  • Aristotle, Politics, Everyman Library,1947
  • The Readers Bible, Compete authorised version, O.U.P. and Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 1951
  • Bass Gary J, "Humanitarian Impulses", The New York Times Magazine, 2008.
  • Bonhoeffer, Ethics, Fontana, 1963.
  • Bowen, Catherine Drinker, The Lion under the Throne, Hamish Hamilton, 1957.
  • Brogan, Hugh, The Penguin History of the United States of America, 1990.
  • Bury, History of Freedom of Thought, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    , 1952,.
  • Churchill, Winston.S.
    Winston Churchill
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

    , The American Civil War, Corgi Books, 1970.
  • Cragg Gerald R, The Church and the Age of Reason, Penguin, 1990.
  • Craveri Michael, The Life of Jesus, Martin Secker& Warburg Ltd, 1967.
  • Crump & Jacob,The Legacy of the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    , 1926.
  • Davis David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, Cornell University Press
    Cornell University Press
    The Cornell University Press, established in 1869 but inactive from 1884 to 1930, was the first university publishing enterprise in the United States.A division of Cornell University, it is housed in Sage House, the former residence of Henry William Sage....

    , 1966.
  • de Torrent, Nicholas: "Humanitarian Action Under Attack: Reflections on the Iraq War" Harvard Human Rights Journal, Volume 17, Spring 2004 Harvard University Retrieved July 13, 2007
  • Humanitarianism
  • D’Sousa, Dinesh, The End of Racism, The Free Press
    Free Press (publisher)
    Free Press is a book publishing imprint of Simon and Schuster. It was founded by Jeremiah Kaplan and Charles Liebman in 1947 and was devoted to sociology and religion titles. It was headquartered in Glencoe, Illinois, where it was known as The Free Press of Glencoe...

    , 1995.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica
    Encyclopædia Britannica
    The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

    , Encyclopædia Britannica Ltd., 1959.
  • Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and its Discontents, Dover Publications, 1994.
  • Gierke, Otto, Natural Law, Beacon Press, 1957.
  • Glover, Jonathon, Humanity, Pimlico, 2001
  • Graveson, R.H. & Crane F.R., A Century of Family Law 1857–1957, Sweet & Maxwell, 1957.
  • Green, J.R., A Short History of the English people, Macmillan & co, 1917.
  • Greer, Germaine, The Female Eunuch, Macgibbon & Kee, London, 1971.
  • Hill, Christopher, God’s Englishman, Penguin 1970.
  • Hill, Christopher, The World Turned Upside Down, Penguin 1975.
  • Hitler, Adolf
    Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

    , Mein Kampf, Hurst & Blackett, 1938.
  • Hoebel,E Adamson, The Law of Primitive Man, Atheneum, New York, 1973.
  • Hughes, Phillip, The Reformation, Burns Oates, 1957.
  • Hughes, Robert, The Fatal Shore, Pan Books, 1987.
  • Johnson, Charles and Smith Patricia, Africans in America, Harcourt Brace (1998).
  • Koestler, Arthur, Reflections on Hanging, Victor Gollancz, 1956.
  • Koestler, Arthur, The Yogi and the Commissar, Jonathan Cape, 1964.
  • Labrousse, E, Bayle, Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • Locke, John, Political Writings, Penguin Classics, 1993.
  • Macaulay, Lord, Historical Essays, T. Nelson & sons.
  • Marrus, Michael P., The Nuremberg Trial 1945-4, A Documentary History, Bedford Books, 1997
  • Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty and the Subjection of Women, Wordsworth Classics
  • Mill, John Stuart, Principles of Political Economy, Longmans Green, 1873.
  • Moorehead,Caroline, Dunant's Dream, War, Switzerland and the History of the Red Cross, Carroll & Graf, 1999
  • Morely, John, Voltaire, Chapman & Hall, 1872.
  • Müller-Lyer, The family, George Allen & Unwin.
  • Mumford, Lewis,The Condition of Man, Martin Secker & Warburg.
  • Neill, William,The Bible Companion, Skeffington.
  • Nehru, Jerwarhalal, Glimpses of World History, Oxford University Press, 1982
  • O'Connell, International Law, Stevens, 1970
  • O’Sullivan, Richard, The Inheritance of the Common Law, Stevens & Sons Ltd, 1950
  • Patterson, Orlando, Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, Basic Books, 1991.
  • Perlman, Linda, We did Nothing, Viking, 2003
  • Pollock & Maitland, The History of English Law, Cambridge University Press, 1968.
  • Power, Samantha, A Problem from Hell, Flamingo, 2002
  • Radzinowicz, Leon, History of English Criminal Law, Stevens.
  • Robertson, Geoffrey, Crimes against Humanity, Penguin Books, 3rd Edit., 2008.
  • Robbins, L, The Theory of Economic Policy, MacMillan, 1952
  • Rudé, George, Revolutionary Europe (1783–1815),Collins, 1964
  • Russell, Bertrand, History of Western Philosophy,George Allen & Unwin, 1948.
  • Russell, Bertrand Religion & Science, Home University Library, 1947.
  • Schweitzer, Albert
    Albert Schweitzer
    Albert Schweitzer OM was a German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, at that time part of the German Empire...

    , Civilization & Ethics, Unwin, 1961.
  • Seaver, Albert Schweizer, The Man and his Mind, A & C Black, 1969.
  • Shapiro, Harry L, Man and Culture, Oxford University Press, 1971
  • Shirer, William, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Secker & Warburg, 1962
  • Singer, Peter, Animal Liberation, Pimlico
  • Spender, John, The Government of Mankind, Cassell
  • Strachey, Lytton, Elizabeth & Essex, Penguin
  • Thomas, Hugh, History of the World, Harper & Rowe,1979
  • Trevelyan, G.M., Illustrated History of England, Longmans, Green and Co., 1956
  • Trevelyan, G.M.Illustrated Social History of England, Pelican, 1964
  • Toynbee, Arnold, A Study of History, Oxford University Press, first edit., 1934
  • Walter, J. (2003). Focus on ethics in aid. World disasters report, 2003. Geneva, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Retrieved 2007-07-13
  • Waters, Tony (2001). Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan: The Limitations of Humanitarian Relief Operations. Boulder: Westview Press.
  • Weber, Max, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of Capitalism, Allen & Unwin, 1950.
  • Whitehead, Alfred North, Adventures of Ideas, Pelican, reprint,1948
  • Wilson, A.M., The Life of John Milton, Oxford University Press
  • Wilson, Richard Ashby and Richard D. Brown, eds., Humanitarianism and Suffering: The Mobilization of Empathy. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
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