BSc International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Introduction to Humanitarianism

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI10202
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores the multiple histories of humanitarianism and their resonances with current humanitarian discourses and practices. It will introduce students to the complex past of humanitarian aid in its European and non-European forms, from charities to international non-governmental organisations. Students will reflect on the usefulness of history for the humanitarian sector.


  • Deepen critical reasoning and intellectual curiosity
  • Strengthen written and oral communication skills
  • Engage critically with a wide range of academic literature
  • Reflect on the long-term influence of the past on public debates, policy frameworks, and humanitarian action
  • Understand the wider usefulness of humanities and social science

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand key concepts around the history of humanitarian aid;
  • Develop a critical understanding of the diverse origins of humanitarian relief work
  • Understand the long-term impact of this history in current humanitarian discourses and practices
  • Address how academic historical writings can challenge how practitioners understand humanitarianism and its history 

Intellectual skills

  • Critically engage with  the literature related to the history of humanitarianism
  • Develop an understanding of the methodological challenges of history writing and their relevance beyond the discipline.
  • Further develop awareness of current humanitarian affairs and their longer histories

Practical skills

  • Demonstrate analytical and debating skills with peers and tutor
  • Demonstrate efficiency and creativity in writing
  • Show effective use of library resources and search engine to gather information

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop communication skills for a variety of audiences
  • Develop, plan and achieve individual research outcomes
  • Develop analytical skills and the ability to articulate ideas verbally and in writing
  • Develop confidence articulating ideas and opinions during group discussions

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Editorial and analytical skills Evidence-led decision-making Putting together and maintaining arguments (useful for a marketing/awareness campaign or business case)
Oral communication
Oral and communication skills, especially in terms of comprehending large amounts of information and drawing reasoned conclusions
Meeting deadlines Working autonomously

Assessment methods

Scholarship Analysis 30%
Essay outlines 0%
Essay 70%


Feedback methods


Written feedback on assignments


Verbal feedback via 1 on 1 meetings with students


Written  feedback on essay outlines



Recommended reading

Baughan Emily and Juliano Fiori. ‘Save the Children, the Humanitarian Project, and the Politics of Solidarity: Reviving Dorothy Buxton's Vision,’ Disasters 39:S2 (2015):129-145.

Barnett, Michael. Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).

Bayly, C. A., Vijayendra Rao, Simon Szreter, and Michael Woolcock. History, Historians and Development Policy: A Necessary Dialogue (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011).

Everill, Bronwyn and Josiah Kaplan (eds). The History and Practice of Humanitarian Intervention and Aid in Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 

Fazal Tanisha. Wars of Law: Unintended Consequences in the Regulation of Armed Conflict (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018).

Ibhawoh Bonny, ‘Humanitarians and Abolitionists’ in Human Rights in Africa. New Approaches to African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Palmieri, Daniel. “An Institution Standing the Test of Time? A Review of 150 Years of the History of the International Committee of the Red Cross”, International Review of the Red Cross 94:888 (2012): 1-26.

Salvatici Silvia. A history of humanitarianism, 1755-1989. In the name of others (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019), 1-13.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Antoine Burgard Unit coordinator

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