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The British Empire and the Armenian Genocide: Humanitarianism and Imperial Politics from Gladstone to Churchill

The British Empire and the Armenian Genocide: Humanitarianism and Imperial Politics from Gladstone to Churchill
Michelle Tusan

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An estimated one million Armenians were killed in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Against the backdrop of World War I, reports of massacre, atrocity, genocide and exile sparked the largest global humanitarian response up to that date. Britain and its empire - the most powerful internationalist institutional force at the time - played a key role in determining the global response to these events. This book considers the first attempt to intervene on behalf of the victims of the massacres and to prosecute those responsible for 'crimes against humanity' using newly uncovered archival material. It looks at those who attempted to stop the violence and to prosecute the Ottoman perpetrators of the atrocities. In the process it explores why the Armenian question emerged as one of the most popular humanitarian causes in British society, capturing the imagination of philanthropists, politicians and the press. For liberals, it was seen as the embodiment of the humanitarian ideals espoused by their former leader (and four-time Prime Minister), W.E. Gladstone. For conservatives, as articulated most clearly by Winston Churchill, it proved a test case for British imperial power.

In looking at the British response to the events in Anatolia, Michelle Tusan provides a new perspective on the genocide and sheds light on one of the first ever international humanitarian campaigns.

Author Info

Michelle Tusan is Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the author of Smyrna's Ashes: Humanitarianism, Genocide and the Birth of the Middle East. She has published widely on the history of humanitarianism and human rights.


‘A major contribution to the history of humanitarianism and the Armenian Genocide. Tusan analyzes British outrage, humanitarianism, and the limits of intervention for the Armenians. This timely book not only further completes the mosaic of research on the global repercussions of the Armenian Genocide, but underscores the limits of humanitarian rage and intervention. Tusan’s book sheds new light on the questions surrounding the denial and constant forgetting of the Armenian Genocide, and it does so from the fascinating perspective of imperialism and colonial legacies.’ - Stefan Ihrig, author of Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler 

‘This intelligent, thoughtful and empirically rich study investigates the role that British imperialists played in shaping humanitarian discourse around the Armenian genocide, its genealogy and its aftermath. Anyone who wants to understand the origins and implications of human rights justice in the pre-World War I era should begin here.’ – Antoinette Burton, Professor of History and Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois

‘Michelle Tusan provides a groundbreaking account of the British policy towards the Armenian Genocide. By relying on the voices of well-known and lesser known Britons, Tusan demonstrates in a fascinating manner the ways in which the British state and society responded to the different phases of violence inflicted upon the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. In this unprecedented study Tusan highlights the role that the British played in shaping the global humanitarian response to mass violence in the 20th century. From Gladstonian idealism to Imperial realpolitik, the book tells the story of the failure of a global hegemonic power to uphold its moral duty to prosecute the architects of one of the classical cases of genocides in the modern period. This book provides important background as to how the international community in the 20th and the 21st century failed/fails to stop genocides through humanitarian and legal intervention.’ - Bedross Der Matossian, Associate Professor of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: INT Lib of C20th History

ISBN: 9781784533854
Publication Date: 10 Mar 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations

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