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8 - The Protection of Christian Minorities in the Ottoman Empire as a Selective Practice of Imperial Intervention

from Part III - Humanitarian Intervention and Its Solidification as an Imperial and Colonial Practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2021

Fabian Klose
Affiliation:
Universität zu Köln
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Summary

This telling fusion of humanitarianism, interventionism and imperialism can, however, also be found in altogether different parts of the world. Chapter 8 accordingly considers three key case studies of collective European great power intervention for the protection of Ottoman Christians, in the imperial context of the so-called ‘Eastern Question’. The first of these cases is the intervention in the Greek war of independence of 1821–30. The chapter argues that the European reaction was decisively conditioned by abolitionist ideas and was based on the very conception of humanitarian intervention that had crystallised in the fight against the slave trade. The intervention in Greece did mark a precedent in its novel linkage between abolitionist themes and those of the protection of minorities, with a distinct narrowing of the idea of international protection to the Christian population. This selective conception of intervention was then ready to be reactivated by the European powersagainst the Ottoman Empire – as testified to by the crises in Lebanon (1860–61) and the Balkans (1876–78). What is remarkable about these instances of intervention is the increasing degree to which practices of international governance emerged in the form of international commissions alongside rudimentary forms of international criminal prosecution and minority protection. Above all, however, this period witnessed the consolidation in international law of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, with the decisive impetus coming from the fight against the slave trade on the one hand and the relief of Christian minorities on the other.

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In the Cause of Humanity
A History of Humanitarian Intervention in the Long Nineteenth Century
, pp. 162 - 207
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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