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Humanitarianism and the overseas aid craze in Britain's colonial straits settlements, 1870-1920

Frost, MR; (2017) Humanitarianism and the overseas aid craze in Britain's colonial straits settlements, 1870-1920. Past and Present , 236 (1) pp. 169-205. 10.1093/pastj/gtx030. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper builds on a recent trend in the historiography of the British Empire, one which emphasises the multi-centred origins of ideologies, policies and social movements, to explore flows of humanitarian aid which emanated from Britain’s late-colonial Straits Settlements and then traversed the globe to reach Europe, India, Persia, South Africa, China and Japan. It therefore challenges the Eurocentricism of recent, purportedly global, histories of the modern humanitarian movement, while reinforcing this movement’s close relationship with the history of international capital. Between 1870 and 1920, many leading humanitarian activists in the Straits Settlements were wealthy Chinese, Indian and Arab merchants, who (along with their employees) made up the principal donors during the charitable funds ‘craze’. In part, the humanitarian impulses of these activists derived from the alternative universalisms being articulated by local Asian intellectuals at this time, with their well-publicized notions of ‘universal brotherhood’ and common humanity. At the same time, the Straits’ charitable funds ‘craze’ took on an undeniable pragmatic political character determined by the wider colonial context. Ultimately, overseas aid-giving became a field of action which bolstered the British Empire yet offered Asian elites a space in which to contest the racial hierarchies which the Empire enforced, and to demand new rights as imperial citizens.

Type: Article
Title: Humanitarianism and the overseas aid craze in Britain's colonial straits settlements, 1870-1920
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtx030
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtx030
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106048
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