Children and the 'hunger politics' of 1919-20: Food aid to German children and the founding of the international Save the Children movement

Tatjana Eichert, Rebecca Gill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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During the interwar era the child emerged as an object of international relations. This development is conventionally told through international organisations such as the SCIU (Save the Children International Union), and scholarly emphasis is placed on the mid-1920s when the role of child welfare in international politics became embodied in the 1924 Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This focus, however, marginalises the very immediate (1919–1920) postwar period’s politics of child-centred food aid as well as the role of individuals and existing networks of feminist activists. By contrast, this chapter uses the untold story of Emily Hobhouse’s involvement in the foundation of SCIU (1920) and her Leipzig school feeding scheme (1920–22) to emphasise the role of individuals and of ‘hunger politics’ in 1919–20. It sees Hobhouse’s humanitarian engagement as a practical intervention in political debates over the desirable form of international relations and postwar order. In analysing the link made between nutrition and peace, the chapter tracks the forgotten tensions at the foundation of the SCIU and highlights the impact of controversies over relief to German children in 1919–20 on the evolution of international child welfare. It also underlines the changed context for the 1924 Declaration by drawing it into comparison with other postwar international legal and humanitarian projects. The chapter argues that the Genevan legalism that prevailed in 1924 represented a stark alternative to the 1919–20 credo of gender-based activism. As such it challenges the idea of a straightforward ‘expansion of sympathy’ suggested by other scholars.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHumanitarianism and the Greater War, 1914-24
EditorsElisabeth Piller, Neville Wylie
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781526173256
ISBN (Print)9781526173249
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2023

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