The Reluctant Internationalists project inspects the history of international collaboration and ambitions of medical professionals, politicians, generals, diplomats and policy-makers in twentieth century Europe. This four-year project, funded by Jessica Reinisch’s Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, examines the origins of such policies, consequences and lasting legacies.

Throughout the century, concerns about public health crises (real or imagined) were primary catalysts for international solutions, structures and mechanisms, which spurred or forced policy-makers at local and national levels into international action, often reluctantly.

Today’s news is dominated by question marks over the future of international institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union, or debates about the nature of international collaboration in response to natural disasters such as those in Haiti, Japan and the Philippines. This project assesses the history of such concerns in twentieth century Europe. The international mechanisms and organisations inaugurated throughout the century often came into existence during emergency situations as a result of tough-minded decisions by military generals, politicians and their policy- makers, who attempted to balance contradictory priorities and clashing agendas, and none of whom operated solely, or at all, out of idealistic causes. Their responses to medical crises and humanitarian disasters created a system of international procedures, structures, mechanisms and organisations which continues until today.

The Reluctant Internationalists is a four-year project funded by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award and led by Dr Jessica Reinisch. The core research team comprises Ana Antic, Dora Vargha and Johanna Conterio (postdoctoral researchers), and David Brydan (PhD student).

In 2016, our visiting fellows are Holly Case and Heidi Tworek.  Previous visiting fellows have included Jessica Pearson-Patel, Friederike Kind-Kovacs, Brigid O’KeeffeFrancesca PianaElidor Mehilli and Casey Hurrell. Read more about them on our People page

General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of General Staff, 1942 (Credit: IWM (TR 144))

General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of General Staff, 1942 (Credit: IWM (TR 144))