The Age of Questions

Guest Post by visiting fellow Holly Case, Brown University

For a month last summer (mid-May to mid-June, 2016), I had the privilege of joining the Reluctant Internationalists project group for research and interaction on themes of common interest. Among the project leader (Jessica Reinisch) and other members and guests (among them Heidi Tworek and Elidor Mehilli), the intellectual energy was remarkable. At several conferences, talks and workshops organised over the course of the short time I was there (on the Armenian genocide, the history of medicine, expertise, etc.) a broad range of interests was paired with impressive regional and temporal depth of knowledge. It is not surprising to me that so many of the project members have found jobs and received honours in the meantime.

Beyond the scholarly merit of the project, I was above all taken with the comradery within the group. The tenor of discussions was always productive and the atmosphere intense intellectually, but relaxed socially. It was truly a joy to think and work among such young scholars and enhances my faith in the future of historical inquiry that they are the faces of the next generation.

As for my own research, Britain was just where I needed to be this summer. Much of my time outside of Birkbeck was spent between the National Archives in Kew and the British Library. In both places I found a wealth of documents and pamphlets relating to the book project I am currently completing on “The Age of Questions,” tentatively subtitled “First Attempt at a History (in Aggregate) of the Eastern, Social, American, Jewish, Polish, Bullion, Tuberculosis, and Many Other Questions from Roughly 1800 to 1945, and Beyond.” The Reluctant Internationalists did me the honour of asking me to deliver the opening address for their new Centre for the Study of Internationalism, for which I spoke on my book project.

What was “The Age of Questions”? From a spattering of references to the American and Catholic questions in the mid-to-late eighteenth century, there followed an interrogative deluge in the nineteenth. Before long, publicists, scholars, statesmen, novelists, religious authorities, millers, doctors, and others competed to derive the best solutions to the Eastern, Belgian, woman, labour [worker], agrarian, and Jewish questions. These were folded into larger ones, like the European, nationality, and social questions, even as they competed for attention with countless smaller ones, like the Kansas, Macedonian, Schleswig-Holstein, and cotton questions. The most prominent figures put their pens to them: Alexis de Tocqueville, Victor Hugo, Karl Marx, Frederick Douglass, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Adolf Hitler, to name just a few. That questions were construed as problems is evident from another familiar formulation: the “definitive” or “final solution.” My book wonders: Was there a family resemblance between questions, or certain patterns that recurred or migrated across them? Have they disappeared, or are they still with us?

Being among the Reluctant Internationalists at Birkbeck helped me bring this project to completion. My archival and other findings at Kew and the BL filled the last of the holes in the analysis relating to the origin of the age, in which British politicians and publicists played the leading role. I left London just days before the Brexit vote. As such, I will always remember that month as an especially wonderful time before the general unravelling that has since ensued, and that shows all the more the unquestionable relevance of the Reluctant Internationalists project.

What Makes Health Special?

Guest Post by visiting fellow Heidi Tworek, University of British Columbia

I had the good fortune and great privilege of spending a month as a visiting fellow at the Reluctant Internationalists project earlier this year. As someone who has only recently started to work on the history of health, I found our discussions tremendously helpful for understanding how to think about health as an international phenomenon. One of the main recurring questions throughout our discussions revolved around the place of health in international interactions. What, if anything, made health different from other international concerns like labour, communications, war or trade?

Health stood for me as an area that bureaucrats often designated as “technical” to enable broader participation in health-related organisations. The designation of “technical” allowed experts to claim that health concerns existed beyond politics and could thus include non-members of international organisations.

In the interwar period, countries like Germany or the Soviet Union were critical players in the League of Nations Health Organisation. Germany continued to send out epidemiological bulletins over wireless after Hitler rescinded the country’s membership of the League in October 1933. The Rockefeller Foundation provided the majority of funding for the Health Organisation, even though the United States never joined the League. Similarly, David Brydan’s recent PhD thesis has shown how Spanish health officials remained deeply involved in the World Health Organisation although Spain was not allowed to join the United Nations until 1955. Disease crossed borders and did not discriminate between members and non-members of an international body. Despite political differences, nation-states often recognised that and cooperated accordingly.

Our discussions about how labels like “technical” enabled broader participation in health matters reminded me of my earlier work on the history of communications, where the label had performed a similar function. Calling communications standards “technical” enabled officials from the nineteenth centuries onwards to reach agreements about cross-border connections. A special issue that I co-edited for Journal of Policy History found that communications standards have succeeded historically when they regulated technical issues like frequencies, but not when they tried to regulate content.

If I apply that distinction back to the history of health, it implies that standardisation in health was likelier to occur when officials could designate something as “technical” (like causes of death) than when it required agreement on broader social issues. Social issues took health out of the purportedly technical into the very definitely political.

What made health different than communications was the very obvious stakes of life or death. In this sense, health was more like war. Health and war have long been linked metaphorically. We talk about “battling” disease or the “war on AIDS.” Conversely, health metaphors are tremendously virulent. We talk about the “health” of the economy or memes going “viral” online. These metaphors had real consequences. Robert Peckham’s work has shown, for example, how the metaphor of contagion in financial crises affected assessments of risk and responses to stock market crashes. Within the world of the military, some countries stopped supplying health data to the League of Nations around 1940 because they feared that the information could be misused by enemy nations for war planning.

Health, then, could be both as “technical” as communications standards and as “political” as war. By comparing health with other areas of internationalism, we gain a far more nuanced picture of how, when, and why cross-border interactions made reluctant experts into enthusiastic participants or vice versa.

Workshop Report – Writing ‘Outsiders’ into the History of International Public Health

outsiders-blogWorkshop Report – Writing “Outsiders” into the History of International Public Health, Birkbeck 27-28 October 2016

Earlier this term, Birkbeck played host to a two-day symposium examining the history of international public health. Writing “Outsiders” into the History of International Public Health brought together over twenty scholars from the UK, Europe, the US and Canada, setting out to examine what impact factoring in “outsiders” would make to the way historians write the history of international public health. In addition, the workshop sought to ask what close study of “outsiders” and the processes of marginalisation can tell us about the international system of public health – its rules (written and unwritten), its reach, and its commitment to inclusiveness?

cvw7zvrxeaa7zeqThe first panel addressed the theme of ‘giving and taking’ with Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck) examining the political geography of UNRRA’s donating and receiving countries, noting how the notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ acted as an important binary for relief work (podcast). Lion Murard (French National Centre for Scientific Research) then focused upon Greek and Eastern European international health during the inter-war period, including a focus on the Americanisation of European public health (podcast). Following this, Yitang Lin,  Thomas David and Davide Rodogno (University of Lausanne and University of Geneva) provided an introductory overview of The Rockefeller Fellows and Fellowship Programmes in Public Health database project, noting that fellows could often be both ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ simultaneously (podcast). All of the papers prompted discussion on the political dimensions of international health, including who was an ‘outsider’ in relation to medical staff within UNRRA and amongst the fellows of the Rockefeller programme (Panel discussion).

cvxwaw3xgaubsu9The second panel examined Soviet Russia during the inter-war years. Susan Gross-Solomon (Toronto) addressed Soviet public health schemes, arguing that Soviet public health was accepted unevenly outside of Russia throughout the whole period and thus Soviet medical professionals can be viewed as suffering from issues of both superiority and inferiority. She suggested the notion of ‘outsider’ or ‘insider’ was therefore perhaps too binary a distinction to make (podcast). Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck) then presented on socialist design in Black Sea resorts, exploring urban planning from a medical and public health perspective. Her paper examined Soviet models of prosperity and the way in which the Soviets presented this case of prosperity from planning in international settings, specifically in relation to the 1958 Congress of the International Architectural Union in Moscow (podcast). Sarah Marks (Birkbeck) followed, using psychiatry and mental health to explore Czechoslovakia’s ‘outsider’ status during the Cold War. She argued that whilst historiographically Czechoslovakia is an outsider, it can be viewed as an insider in many ways and her paper therefore advocated for the necessity of writing medicine and science back into the history of Czechoslovakia in order to understand its role within the broader Soviet sphere (podcast). All three papers prompted discussion on the extent of the performative aspect of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ as labels in relation to international gatherings and congresses, as well as to what extent the Soviets can be classified as having truly been ‘outsiders’ during this period (Panel discussion).

cvx-j0ww8aaknwwThe third panel of the day centred attention on the history of public health in the so-called ‘outsider’ states of Franco’s Spain, Nazi Germany, and Greece. David Brydan (Birkbeck) addressed Franco Spain’s relationship with the World Health Organisation during the immediate post-WWII period and the country’s isolation on the international stage. The paper noted that it is during this period that Spain can be most clearly viewed as an international outsider. Consequently, the paper examined the means through which Francoist Spain attempted to align itself internationally and its attempts to integrate into mainstream international health networks and organisations (podcast). Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes) then spoke on Germany as an outsider in international public health under Nazism, addressing the topic of the Nazi vision to create a German-led European public health system and focusing on Nazi initiatives during the Second World War (podcast). Following this, Maria Zarifi (Hellenic Open University) presented on public health in the construction of Greece in the late nineteenth century. Her paper centred around the notion of modernity in relation to medical scientists in Greece and, in turn, how this went hand in hand with the development of the Greek state (podcast). The panel discussion that followed incorporated debate upon the centrality of public health to state building and the role of nationalism in international public health (Panel discussion).

cv3apftwgaambbeOn the second day, the final panel of the workshop addressed inclusion and exclusion in international health networks. Jessica Pearson (Macalester) presented on colonial outsiders in international public health, with specific focus on colonial France and its relations with the WHO. She argued that France’s refusal to allow the WHO to operate in its colonial territories was due to the broader context of the French perceiving the involvement of any international organisation in their African empire as a threat to French colonial sovereignty (podcast). Dora Vargha (Exeter) then spoke on determining who were ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ in the World Health Organisation. Her paper questioned if international health always occurs through international structures. Through examining Eastern European states, she argued that leaving the WHO did not result in isolation and an end to collaborations in the field of international public health (podcast). Following this, Ana Antic (Exeter) presented on the links between socialist Eastern Europe and the decolonising world. Her paper focused in particular upon examining alternative socialist internationalism through the prism of psychiatry and mental health, as evidenced through the case study of a group of Yugoslav psychiatrists in Guinea (podcast). After the three papers, discussion centred upon life beyond the WHO, both for colonial powers and for many socialist states. In addition, debate turned to the importance of distinguishing between global public health and international public health (Panel discussion).

The workshop concluded with a roundtable discussion addressing what difference adding outsiders makes to the way historians write the history of public health and the history of internationalism more broadly. In addition, discussions also examined what happens when we put public health into the history of international organisations and international relations, and vice versa. Similarly, debate revolved around questioning the adequacy of existing standard narratives of international public health and the ways in which historians can instead tell these narratives from below. A podcast of this roundtable discussion is available here.

Tracing the Twentieth Century through Maps

europe_from_space_640The 20th century was a period of extremes, of contrasts and contradictions. It witnessed destructive wars, and yet periods of unprecedented peace. Increasing wealth was joined by higher levels of poverty. There was scientific and technological progress, but also inhumanity and repression. The map was one of the century’s principal objects. Thanks to developments in geography education, cheaper and quicker mapmaking processes, and increasing travel and migration, maps became common, trusted and powerful things in western society. Yet maps were not passive or neutral objects. They were agents of change, presenting only versions of reality, not the reality itself. They were capable of informing, but also misleading. They were tools of control and of protest, and even changed the world.

With these advances and the changing role of maps in mind, on Monday 5th December Dr Jessica Reinisch will deliver a keynote lecture addressing ‘What Matters Most about the Twentieth Century?’ as part of a one day CPD course for secondary school teachers. The course, ‘Tracing the Twentieth Century through Maps‘, is hosted by the Historical Association in partnership with the British Library and is designed to aid those teaching 20th century units at GCSE or A-Level, with the day based around the British Library’s forthcoming exhibition Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line.

The course will comprise of keynotes from Jessica Reinisch and Tom Harper, lead curator of the exhibition, followed by a series of workshops to develop subject knowledge and support best practice teaching. These workshops will feature Ben Walsh, associate vice president of the Historical Association, on the Cold War and Alf Wilkinson, educational consultant and textbook author, on the First World War.

Booking is open now through Eventbrite here. Further information and the full programme for the day is available to consult on the Historical Association’s website here.

We’re looking for a Public Engagement & Events Coordinator

The Reluctant Internationalists research group is looking for a Public Engagement and Events Coordinator to work with us on our busy programme of conferences, workshops and public engagement activities. This is a great opportunity for someone with administrative or project management experience who wishes to build up their portfolio of public engagement projects for future grant applications.

The post is part-time at 28 hours a week for 12 months. The application deadline is 11 August 2016. Interviews will be held in the week starting 22 August.

You can find more details about the post here.

Internationalists in the Age of Nationalism

In this post, Bertrand Taithe considers some of the causes and consequences of Britain’s forthcoming withdrawal from the European Union.


The place in which I have lived for over 22 years, as an academic immigrant, has voted against membership of the EU on Thursday 23rd June 2016. The same village is now festooned with Union Jack flags as part of its festive 1940s memories weekend – the event is a celebration of the spirit of the war during which the good folks dress in second-hand uniforms of varying accuracy, invite fake Tommies and GIs and even the occasional Russian or Wehrmacht re-enactors to parade in the street and make camp on the school grounds. One cannot avoid the conclusion that this celebration has taken a very different tone when, a week before, Jo Cox, the MP from the neighbouring constituency has been stabbed and shot to cries of ‘Britain first’.


This is not to attribute to an exercise in nostalgia for a united society facing a common enemy any deep sinister motives. Rather, it is to point out that 1940s weekends and other flag-waving events are not only nostalgic reminders of nationalisms gone by. They are also popular engagements with the rituals of patriotism, at a time when patriotism is once again used for political aims.

By 1940 the great European ideal of internationalism was deeply buried. The left was split by the alliance of Communists and National Socialists, the main institution of internationalism was seen as a great irrelevance and a failure. A parallel comes to mind in 2016, though to compare the EU with the League of Nations is perhaps a little far-fetched. Yet both have interesting common features: the League was a Wilsonian idea but it really built on 50 years of preliminary international conferences, technical networks and ideals which brought together the same kind of experts who later fed into the European project. It combined liberal economic ideas with liberal notions of social justice and global aspirations of development and protection – making humanitarian aid a cause at the heart of international relations through new common institutions. Arguably, it only tentatively raised the issues of citizenship, minorities and participative democracy when so many of the key powers were empires. There were tensions in the edifice and states embraced ideals in its debating chambers they privately rejected.

Much the same could be said of the EU. Like the League of Nations, the EU combines a charisma vacuum, a failed engagement with the citizens it claims to represent and yet profound technical expertise and a desire to protect citizens. The legacy of the League was a technocratic one. The technical committees of the League survived throughout the war and were later the bedrock of UN collective expertise. The International Labour Organisation and the WHO are obviously the main examples of this continuity while the work the league undertook on behalf of refugees acquired new meaning in the turmoil of the 1940s. The EU has delivered over and over again on technical issues, on education and rights, on ecological and health norms, on workers’ rights, but its overall political project, much like the loftier dimensions of the League of Nations, is in danger of failing utterly.

Part of this failure of course is that international bodies such as the EU or the League of Nations remain empty drums on which states play their own tunes while pretending to be listening. Access to citizens is not part of their remit – the EU parliament is as toothless as the petitions to the League were. Its remit is technical, not democratic. Ventriloquism is the only way Leagues or EU can speak. They are no more than echo chambers – resounding and deafening when cacophony is the only sound given to them.

The debates of the League were not edifying when Ethiopia faced the Italian onslaught and generated a mass displacement of refugees, when faced by the nativist and racist ideology of Fascists across Europe in Spain, Italy, Germany and increasingly across the democracies of the continent. The drum ceased to beat altogether when it became obvious that no-one was listening any more. The EU is not yet faced with these issues or on that scale and perhaps the comparison becomes less relevant. Yet with the UK, one of its five largest countries, withdrawing over a range of issues which range from accountability vacuum to the rejection of the non-British and the fear of the other, the discourse is changing and we are witnessing the revival of old nativist tropes and somewhat more muted racist ones.

This is not a complete surprise. The EU has been in weak responsive mode for a decade and its democratic agenda has stalled even as its technical expertise became part of the problems member states face. As an international body it became the site of conflicts between states rather than the expression of internationalism. Ironically, the EU became also the target of the most committed internationalists, with MSF denouncing its deal with Turkey or its treatment of refugees and migrants – MSF has decided to reject all funding originating from the EU and its constitutive states to make the point that the EU as a whole is failing as a humanitarian or internationalist organisation. Torn between calls to close the border and appeals to expand or guarantee humanitarian rights of refuge, the EU makes no sense to the humanitarians who used to take ‘its’ money.

Of course the EU has no money of its own and it does not raise its taxes, it is not either a humanitarian or internationalist structure per se. As merely a supranational pooling of sovereignty and expertise it does not have much of a will of its own, and its ‘programme’ is poor in political terms. Crises reveal the EU’s weak political nature, and they are an ‘occasion for cheering’ much like the one enjoyed by detractors of the League of Nations in 1936. To reject the EU is to challenge how little it can do, rather than denounce its role. The pooling of some elements of national sovereignty has not diminished the existence of sovereign voices. The EU only has the foreign policy governments allow it to have. MSF is targeting the drum rather than the drummers: citizens and states besieged by demagogues.

Governments themselves are looking at their public opinion and at the resurgence of nationalism with fear – evaluating how far the debate has shifted towards a rejection of internationalism and globalisation. Opening up societies to refugees now appears a difficult humanitarian line to pursue. The fact that the country most reluctant to accept its share of the people needing protection (and yet one of the largest donors of international development aid) has now turned away from internationalism, partially on those grounds, should be something humanitarians and internationalists need to ponder. Weak international bodies and structures are not the single cause of a weakening of internationalism – attacking them and weakening further their frail legitimacy is to indulge the enemies of internationalism. To rejoice in the end of an internationalist illusion, as some did in 1936 or as some do today, is to disguise as realism profound cynicism on the prospects of humanity. The terms of the debate on the League of Nations or on the EU were and are not about pragmatic evaluations of what works or what should work: they are about what constitutes our common humanity and how we should define citizenship. Despite their best efforts, technical experts did not articulate a social compact which could resist the allure and romance of nationalism with its binaries of love and hate, inclusion and rejection. So-called European citizenship fails to live up to the most basic requirements of the concept. In current debates (July 2016) this citizenship of the European Union offers no long-term guarantee of residency or political participation in Britain post Brexit. The vote out of the EU effectively disenfranchised some of the union’s citizens (this would also apply to the British residents in the EU) and the EU has shown no explicit concern with the fate of citizens in this debate. Furthermore, EU citizenship and internationalism is precisely what renewed nationalism defines itself against.

I have never dressed up as a free-French in my village fete. Were I to choose a costume for the village parade, I think I might go for the grey business-like suit of a League of Nation expert, anonymously working through the war in grim and earnest despair but in the hope of an internationalist future. On second thoughts, I think I might give it a miss.

Bertrand Taithe is Professor in Cultural History and Director of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester.

Aid to Armenia: Workshop Report by Jo Laycock and Francesca Piana

Aid to Armenia-3

The workshop “Aid to Armenia. Armenia and Armenians in International History” took place on the 3rd of June at Birkbeck College, University of London. The workshop was timely: the day before, on the 2nd of June, the German Parliament had employed the word genocide to describe the violence, massacres, death marches, rapes, forced conversions, abductions, and collective expropriations that the Ottoman Armenian population experienced during WWI and the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire. To this day, despite recognition of the Armenian genocide by multiple actors over the last few months and years, the Turkish government embraces a position of persistent denial.

The aim of “Aid to Armenia” was threefold. First, it enlarged the narrow perspective of Armenian history/studies that, over time, have privileged questions of violence, survival and denial over other overlapping historical processes. Second, the workshop framed the history of Armenia and Armenians within current discussions and preoccupations in international and global history. The themes of total war, peace, humanitarian aid, reconstruction, and sovereignty shaped presentations and discussions. Lastly, particular attention was devoted to engaging with the landmark historiographical contributions, which appeared mostly in 2015, in coincidence with the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. To this end, a group of scholars – at different stages of their career, from PhD students to more established scholars – gathered at Birkbeck College. The majority of the participants were historians, but the participation of political scientists, anthropologists, and legal scholars enriched the discussions and demonstrated the potential for ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration.

The first panel focused on crises, “questions”, and interventions during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire. Stéphanie Prévost (Paris Diderot) adopted a comparative framework to study the British and American responses to the Hamidian massacres of 1894-1896. She did so by looking at non-state actors working on the margins of inter-state diplomacy. James Perkins (British Library) discussed the British liberal interests in the Macedonian question, focusing in particular on the British diplomatic and moral responsibility towards the implementation of reforms. Triggered by the comments of Rebecca Gill (University of Huddersfield), both presentations elaborated on the role of geographies that the territories populated by Armenians and Macedonia occupied in the imagination of Western policy-makers, philanthropists, and missionaries. This heterogeneous group of activists belonged to and participated in networks where all sort of interests – from private to public, from political and economic to social – intersected. The papers also prompted discussion of the ways that racial and orientalist languages of imperialism deployed by these groups in their engagement with the Armenians in the 19th century shifted to rooms, corridors, and buildings of liberal internationalism in Geneva after the formation of the League of Nations in 1920.

The second panel explored questions of refugees and resettlement from comparative perspectives. Inger Marie Okkenhaug (Volda University College) looked at the actors providing relief to post-genocide Armenian refugees and at their connections with the local communities. She addressed the history of Scandinavian missionary organizations and the work of their missionaries and relief workers in Armenia and Syria. Maria Rizou (King’s College) introduced the role played by the National Bank of Greece and the Greek state in granting loans to Greek refugees between 1918 and 1924. She stressed that national money was lent to Greek refugees from Bulgaria and Romania, whereas external financial resources were granted to a great number of refugees coming from Asia Minor, before and during the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. The discussions that followed developed around the different connections and obligations that the state had towards refugees in the interwar period – as Peter Gatrell (Manchester University) pointed out. The interactions between the state and refugees developed (and still do) along specific lines, such as public health, nutrition, mental health, and general plans for the relief and reconstruction of societies. More broadly, this panel pointed for the need for greater attention to the economic dimensions of the history of humanitarian aid.

The third panel analyzed issues of gender, relief, and reconstruction in the interwar period. Becky Jinks (Royal Holloway UCL) presented the case study of an American humanitarian organization, the Smith College Relief Unit, in providing relief to Armenians from 1919 to 1921. She focused, on one hand, on the reasons why and the ways in which relief was provided, and, on the other hand, on the processes of self-reflection that relief workers underwent while busy at the ground level or writing ex-post about their experiences. Again, this raised important questions regarding the relationship between individual and organizational motivations, practices and narratives. Anna Aleksanyan (Clark University) presented the work carried out by the Neutral House, based in Istanbul, to rescue surviving Armenian women and children and the tensions arising from the so-called Armenization of the children. She particularly stressed the historical role played by the genocide in creating new social identities in the interwar period. Philippa Hetherington (UCL SSEES) provided food for thought during the discussion, which centered and articulated the category of gender. Gender might be used as a framing function and a way of identification; as a lens through which men can be studied as historical actors alongside women; and as a prism to analyze the connection between women and children in the Armenian case. More generally, this panel suggested that Armenians were not only recipients of humanitarian aid but also played an active role in shaping and re-appropriating it.

The workshop was closed by a round table connecting the past, present, and future of both Armenia and Armenians. The contributions highlighted the ways in which histories of crisis and relief continue to resonate. On the one hand history plays an important role in shaping perceptions of current crises. On the other, popular understandings of crisis and relief has be reshaped and re-appropriated in current contexts of conflict and displacement arising from the Nagorno Karabagh and Syrian conflicts. Armine Ishkanian (LSE) stressed the importance of understanding the politics of NGO interventions and civil society activism in Armenia during the post-Soviet transition. Dawn Chatty (University of Oxford) reflected on the recent arrivals of Syrian Armenian refugees in the Republic of Armenia. She demonstrated the importance of regional histories of displacement for understanding not only the causes of the crisis but also the ways in which refugees perceive their experiences and seek to shape their futures and the responses of states to their claims.

Although the focus was on the post-Soviet period, discussions pointed to the important of paying attention to the Soviet period and the responses of Soviet actors to various incidences of crisis in the region. Katja Doose (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen), for example, explained how Soviet Armenian citizens’ perception of the USSR as a donor of international aid was disrupted by the acceptance of international aid in the aftermath of the Armenian earthquake of 1988. From her end, Anahit Shirinyan (Chatham House) historicized the 4 days war in April 2016 between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabagh by looking back to the first years of Armenian independence in the 1990s. More broadly, the roundtable demonstrated the fruitfulness of comparative and inter-disciplinary perspectives and the importance of historicizing taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of “complex emergencies” and the principles and practices of humanitarian interventions.