A Brief History
On August 22, 1864, the first of 4 treaties governing the conduct of war was signed in Geneva, Switzerland, a pact called “The First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.”
The lengthy title tells you what the pact concerned, and the 12 European countries or kingdoms that signed it agreed to humanitarian treatment of the war wounded. Later, 5 more countries signed, including the United States.
The civilized world met 3 more times over the next century, establishing far reaching accords on the conduct of war, the treatment of prisoners and civilians, as well as wounded soldiers, but does not govern the conduct of war itself, which is instead covered under the Hague Conventions. The most recent Geneva Convention was held in 1949, fine tuning the agreement, and has been signed by 196 nations.
Question for students (and subscribers): Are you familiar with the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Evangelista, Matthew and Nina Tannenwald, editors. Do the Geneva Conventions Matter? Oxford University Press, 2017.
The International Committee of the Red Cross. The Geneva Conventions. Hassell Street Press, 2021.
The featured image in this article, a picture by Charles Édouard Armand-Dumaresq (1826–1895) of the signing of the First Geneva Convention, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
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