About us

This project brings together a dynamic interdisciplinary research team that creates the space for innovative international historical research while developing research capabilities in an area that is highly relevant to current policy making. The team includes two historians and one geographer from Flinders University, South Australia and two historians from the University of Strathclyde and the University of Stirling in the UK. We are culturally diverse, comprising researchers of five nationalities with fluency in four languages – English, French, Spanish and German.

Investigators

Lead Chief Investigator
Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Flinders University

I have been researching and writing in the area of voluntary action, volunteering, gender and war, both from an historical and contemporary perspective, for over 25 years, and I am delighted to be leading this project.  I am the principal Australian historian on Australian Red Cross and the Red Cross Movement; my work includes the centenary history, The Power of Humanity. 100 Years of Australian Red Cross (2014). I will be focusing on the role played by the League of Red Cross Societies in the areas of public health nursing and the professionalisation of nursing from the early 1920s onwards; the role of the Japanese Red Cross and the Shoken Fund from 1919; undertake research on the impact of the Vietnam War and 1980s Africa famine on the League of Red Cross Societies; as well as examining the theme of decolonisation in the Global South through the experiences of the New Guinea and Australian Red Cross Societies. I am also interested in exploring the role of individuals across a range of national Red Cross Societies as well as the League.

Chief Investigator
Professor Susanne Schech, Flinders University

I am a geographer with a strong focus on international development. Over the past two decades my research has examined humanitarian and development interventions, their underpinning conceptual frames, and the actors involved. I have investigated the adaptation and translation of global policies and paradigms in international development including participation, gender mainstreaming, poverty reduction, partnership and volunteering. My interests in the conceptual shifts and continuities in international development thinking, policies and practices, and how geopolitical power structures shape them, are useful to understanding the resilience of the League as a transnational humanitarian organisation.

Much of my recent research has been concerned with the translation of global policies into local contexts – for example, how modernisation theory has been appropriated by newly independent post-colonial states, and how gender mainstreaming or refugee resettlement is interpreted, implemented or experienced by local actors. Useful to this research endeavour is also my experience in collaborative research projects on “Cosmopolitan development: The impacts of international volunteering” (ARC 120200085 2012-15) and “From Stranger to Citizen: Migration, Modernisation and Racialisation in the Making of the New Australian” (ARCDP 0665782 2006-07).

Partner Investigator
Dr Rosemary Cresswell (Wall), University of Strathclyde

I have been working on the history of the Red Cross movement since 2011. Prior to that I researched the history of infectious disease and colonial nursing. I began my interest in the Red Cross movement through two topics: the history of first aid and the history of the Malayan Emergency. Captivated by the range of work the British Red Cross was involved in, I decided to write the history of the charity in time for the 150th anniversary in 2020, and this book is under contract with Bloomsbury. For my work on the British Red Cross, I have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the project ‘Crossing Boundaries: The History of First Aid in Britain and France, 1909-1989’ (Grant No. AH/N003330/1), and a Bodleian Libraries Sassoon Visiting Fellowship (University of Oxford). I will be furthering this research through the history of the League, looking at the history of first aid and road traffic accidents, research and exchange of knowledge regarding infectious diseases, using the case studies of typhoid and AIDS, and the involvement of the Red Cross with international conflicts and refugees since the Second World War, such as the Civil War in Palestine, Malayan Emergency, the Nigerian Civil War, the Vietnam War and Cambodia.

I am currently a Research Fellow on the project, ‘Border Crossings: Charity and Voluntarism in Britain’s mixed economy of health care since 1948.’ This research has been funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science (£1.4 million). It will run from 2020 – 2024.

Chief Investigator
Dr Romain Fathi, Flinders University

I am a Senior Lecturer at Flinders University and a Chercheur Associé at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po in Paris. I was born and educated in France, where I graduated from Sciences Po, and I now live in Australia. I am an award-winning cultural historian who focuses on the transnational dimension of war and its aftermath, in both the European and Australian contexts. The First World War, war commemorations, sorties de guerre and Australian identity are my primary research interests. My latest book, Our Corner of the Somme, was published with Cambridge University Press in 2019.

As part of the Resilient Humanitarianism project, I am investigating how the French Red Cross movement interacted with the League of Red Cross Societies. I look at how they responded to the reconstruction challenges that emerged in the Régions dévastées following the First World War through to the interwar period, and the public health programs they implemented to assist populations in these areas.

I am the lead co-organiser of “The Red Cross Movement, Voluntary Organisations and Reconstruction in Western Europe in the 20th century” Symposium which was held online, in June 2021

Partner Investigator
Professor Neville Wylie, University of Stirling

I am an international historian by training but have increasingly enjoyed inhabiting spaces on inter-disciplinary boundaries – the intersection between history and International Relations and, more recently, between history and International Law. This preference for ‘fence sitting’ may correlate with an early interest in the history of neutrality, but what unites my work is an abiding interest in the study of war in its broadest sense. My under-grad dissertation examined Viking raids on the bishopric of Meaux in 862, while my masters and doctoral research focused on Anglo-Swiss relations during the 2nd world war. It was a reading of the papers of the Swiss government and ICRC during this conflict that piqued my interest in the study of humanitarianism, and gave rise, in due course to my work on ‘Barbed Wire diplomacy’ – an examination of the way the British government sought to care and protect its prisoners in German hands during the 2nd world war – and to my more recent publications on the evolution of international humanitarian law.

My involvement in the Resilient Humanitarian project draws from an abiding interest in how we account for the resilience of institutions and norms under periods of intense stress. My contribution to the project will involve revisiting the question of how the events of the 2nd world war affected institutional dynamics in the Red Cross movement. It has long been recognised that the war posed the ICRC with some fundamental challenges – just as the 1st world war had done twenty years before. But what did the war look like from the perspective of the League and how did its major stakeholders, the national red cross societies, seek to articulate its role during the war, and envisage a future for the institution after the return of peace? In short, how did the movement’s splintering into rival factions, and the corruption of its humanitarian ideals – arguably by all sides in the conflict – change attitudes towards the shape, scope and intentions of the post-war League.

Doctoral Candidate
Jordan Evans, Flinders University

I  successfully met the requirements of my confirmation of candidature, including presenting an overview of my thesis proposal at the Flinders University College of HASS Spring Conference in early November 2020.

The working title of my thesis is: ‘New Blood: The role of the League of Red Cross Societies in the development of blood transfusion services in Asian and African post-colonial states from 1950-1979.’

Through a close study of League archival materials, I seek to examine what mechanisms the LRCS utilised to help develop blood transfusion services in Asia and Africa, how it liaised with the relevant national Red Cross Societies, and how these operations evolved over time.

If you have any archival materials or publications that might be useful for my research, please make contact with my principal supervisor Susanne Schech via email:  susanne.schech@flinders.edu.au

The Advisory Board

The project will be informed by a eight-member Advisory Board of esteemed international academic experts and practitioners.

Dr James Crossland
Liverpool John Moores University

Professor Hiroshi Higashiura
Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing

Professor Dominique Marshall
Carleton University, Ottawa

Professor Davide Rodogno
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva

Professor Glenda Sluga
European University Institute, Florence

Professor Andrew Thompson
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) International Champion, Former Chief Executive of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, Professor of Global Imperial History at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford

Grant Mitchell
Manager, Library and Archive Services, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva

Associate Professor Julia Irwin
University of South Florida