Dr Tehila Sasson (UC Berkeley) Past & Present Fellow

In the Name of Humanity: Britain and the Rise of Global Humanitarianism

I am a historian of Modern Europe and international history with a particular interest in the history of ethics, rights, sovereignty and the economy. While my writing and teaching focus on the global and imperial dimensions of Britain’s past, I analyze Britain within the wider frameworks of Europe and the world. 
 
I am currently completing a book manuscript, entitled “We Are the World: Ordinary Lives and the Making of Global Humanitarianism.” The book tells the story of how and why we came to care about global suffering. Based on newly opened archives of nongovernmental organizations, international agencies and private business, it uncovers the ways in which humanitarian ethics became part of our everyday action and experience. From the end of the Second World War, and the unraveling of the European empires, to the Live Aid concert in the 1980s, the book argues, new global mobilized ordinary lives in Britain, Europe and the United States to join a global humanitarian community. The story of this global community has often been told from the perspective of high diplomacy and governments but “We Are the World” takes a fresh and novel perspective to trace how women, children, youth groups, religious organizations and even multinational corporations came to take part in aiding the global poor. It demonstrates how during the era of decolonization, new market-based activism allowed the inclusion of a broader base of people, making them become citizens of the world. 
 
I am also at work on a second book project, provisionally titled “The Right to Nature: Sovereignty, Planetary Politics and the Making of a New International Order.” The book traces the origins of planetary politics and environmental justice in the twentieth century through economic, legal and environmental lenses. At the heart of the project I ask who has the right to own natural resources and how was this right formulated, developed and contested on an international stage. From the imperial race for resources in the late nineteenth century, through the imperial and international schemes to develop natural resources in the 1920s and 1930s, until the rise of a global environmental justice during decolonization, I argue that the struggle for natural resources became the basis for a new international order in the twentieth century.   
 
In addition to being a Past & Present Fellow, I am also a visiting research associate at the Centre for History and Economics, Magdalene College, Cambridge. For more see: https://berkeley.academia.edu/TehilaSasson. My twitter handle is: @TehilaSasson
 

Selected articles:

“Milking the Third World: Humanitarianism, Capitalism, and the Moral Economy of the Nestlé Boycott,” American Historical Review, (October 2016, forthcoming).

“From Empire to Humanity: The Russian Famine and the Imperial Origins of International Humanitarianism,” Journal of British Studies, 55, No. 03, (July 2016): 519 – 537.

“Practising the British way of famine: technologies of relief, 1770–1985,” Co-authored with James Vernon, European Review of History—Revue europe´enne d’histoire, 22, No. 6 (November, 2015): 860–72.