Children, youth and humanitarian assistance: how the British Red Cross Society and Oxfam engaged young people in Britain and its empire with international development projects in the 1950s and 1960s

by Marie-Luise Ermisch

Institution: McGill University
Department: Department of History and Classical Studies
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: History - Modern
Record ID: 2058045
Full text PDF: http://digitool.library.mcgill.ca/thesisfile130392.pdf


This dissertation examines how non-state actors taught international development issues to children and youth in Britain and West Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, as the field of international development was first emerging in its modern form. This thesis includes detailed case studies of the educational work of the British Red Cross Society (BRCS) and Oxfam, while also highlighting relevant United Nations (UN) initiatives from that period. Both the BRCS and Oxfam are established actors in the field of humanitarian assistance today and, over time, have greatly influenced the way people in Britain look at and engage with the developing world. Examining how the BRCS and Oxfam taught young people about international development issues and practice in the 1950s and 1960s provides insight into the very foundation of how the field was first constructed and thought about, allowing us to reflect on how it continues to impact education and the public imagination today.Just as the British government was coming to terms with its shifting postwar and post-colonial responsibilities in the 1950s and 1960s, through international aid and assistance, and participation in the UN and other intergovernmental organizations, so too were British school children, alongside those in the empire, taught to understand and participate in this new world order, often with the help of NGO conceptual frameworks of international poverty and development. Much was perceived to be at stake within these educational initiatives – not only increased international awareness and action, and the establishment of a strong fundraising base in Britain, but also the saving of lives in developing nations and the establishment of peace through "international friendship" and assistance. For these reasons NGOs such as the BRCS and Oxfam strategically appealed to the idealism of children and youth through their educational programs and campaigns, inspiring thousands of children and youth to fundraise, volunteer overseas, build international friendship networks, and campaign for a better world, as they saw it. Through their work, then, NGOs encouraged children and youth towards global citizenship within the context of Britain's changing status as a global power. Cette thèse examine comment des acteurs non étatiques ont éduqué la jeunesse britannique et ouest africaine sur les enjeux reliés au développement international au cours des années 1950 et 1960, alors que le domaine commençait à émerger sous sa forme moderne. Plus précisément, cette thèse présente des études de cas détaillées sur les programmes éducatifs de la Croix-Rouge britannique (CRB) et d'Oxfam, tout en soulignant certaines initiatives pertinentes des Nations Unies (ONU) au cours de la même période. Autant la CRB qu'Oxfam sont des acteurs qui sont bien établis aujourd'hui dans le domaine de l'assistance humanitaire, ayant eu, au cours de ces années, une influence importante sur la façon dont le peuple britannique perçoit et interagit avec le monde en développement. Étudier comment la CRB et Oxfam ont…