IRRC No. 304

Before “Geneva” Law: a British surgeon in the Crimean War

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It is well known that modern “Geneva” international humanitarian law has its origins in the impartial rescue and relief work undertaken by Henry Dunant in June 1859 for the wounded soldiers abandoned on the battlefield at Solferino and the proposals made thereafter in his book “A Memory of Solferino”. Henry Dunant's initiative led to the establishment of the International Red Cross Movement and the conclusion of the initial Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field, signed in 1864. These humanitarian developments were, by 1859, sorely needed. The first half of the nineteenth century had seen an increase in the scale of warfare and with it a combination of incapacity and unconcern in relation to the wounded and war victims in general.

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