Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Against Massacre

Against Massacre: Humanitarian Interventions in the Ottoman Empire, 1815-1914

Davide Rodogno
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Against Massacre
    Book Description:

    Against Massacrelooks at the rise of humanitarian intervention in the nineteenth century, from the fall of Napoleon to the First World War. Examining the concept from a historical perspective, Davide Rodogno explores the understudied cases of European interventions and noninterventions in the Ottoman Empire and brings a new view to this international practice for the contemporary era.

    While it is commonly believed that humanitarian interventions are a fairly recent development, Rodogno demonstrates that almost two centuries ago an international community, under the aegis of certain European powers, claimed a moral and political right to intervene in other states' affairs to save strangers from massacre, atrocity, or extermination. On some occasions, these powers acted to protect fellow Christians when allegedly "uncivilized" states, like the Ottoman Empire, violated a "right to life." Exploring the political, legal, and moral status, as well as European perceptions, of the Ottoman Empire, Rodogno investigates the reasons that were put forward to exclude the Ottomans from the so-called Family of Nations. He considers the claims and mixed motives of intervening states for aiding humanity, the relationship between public outcry and state action or inaction, and the bias and selectiveness of governments and campaigners.

    An original account of humanitarian interventions some two centuries ago,Against Massacreinvestigates the varied consequences of European involvement in the Ottoman Empire and the lessons that can be learned for similar actions today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4001-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    I began my research in Geneva at the end of the so-called humanitarian decade (1990–2000) when the subject and international practice of humanitarian interventions was one of the most controversial matters of discussion in international relations among academics, policy-makers, and the mass media.¹ As Robert O. Keohane wrote in 2002, “saying humanitarian intervention in a room full of philosophers, legal scholars, and political scientists is a little bit like crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre: it can create a clear and present danger to everyone within earshot.”² Keohane does not even mention historians, who, with regard to this topic,...

  2. CHAPTER ONE The International Context of Nineteenth-Century Humanitarian Interventions
    (pp. 18-35)

    This chapter sets the international context necessary to grasp why humanitarian intervention emerged as a particular kind of intervention and why this international practice took place in a particular geographical area, the Ottoman Empire (the target state), and geopolitical context, when Ottoman Christians were victims of massacre, atrocities, and extermination.

    The nineteenth-century international system was answerable to the European powersʹdirectoire, which, as historian Bruno Arcidiacono puts it, was an international legal order founded on a substantive principle of legitimacy where peace would be guaranteed by a particular group of states, the ʺgreat powers.ʺ¹ The ideas behind thedirectoirepersisted...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Exclusion of the Ottoman Empire from the Family of Nations, and Legal Doctrines of Humanitarian Intervention
    (pp. 36-62)

    This chapter offers a brief sketch based on nineteenth-century British and French writings, articles, memoirs, journals, pamphlets, and reviews. I do not examine the vast travel literature that certainly contributed to shaping a set of images and perceptions of the Ottomans, nor do I pretend to present a comprehensive survey of the image of Turkey in France and Great Britain or to offer an account of what the Ottoman Empire was like, or even how it was seen by those who actually lived in it. I wish to underline that the image of the Ottoman Empire and that of its...

  4. CHAPTER THREE Intervention on Behalf of Ottoman Greeks (1821–33)
    (pp. 63-90)

    This chapter examines European powersʹ politics with regard to and military intervention in Ottoman Greece from 1821 to 1833. It looks at various massacres that did not lead to a humanitarian intervention and other events that eventually led to the famous battle of Navarino, which, retrospectively, was portrayed as the first instance of modern humanitarian intervention, thecoup dʹessaiof a state practice that would crystallize throughout the century. We shall see to what extent the 1827 intervention was a ʺhumanitarian interventionʺ against the incidence of a prototype of ʺethnic cleansing,ʺ as scholar Vahakn Dadrian claimed in his history of...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR Intervention in Ottoman Lebanon and Syria (1860–61)
    (pp. 91-117)

    Before the intervention of 1860, Mount Lebanon (also known as the Mountain) was an autonomous administrative Ottoman entity distinct from the province of Syria, comprising nearly 200,000 inhabitants.¹ Numerically preponderant, the Christian Maronites inhabited the northern and central regions of Mount Lebanon.² They were also numerous in the mainly Druze area of Jezzine and similarly formed an enclave in the town of Dair al-Qamar. The Druze were a splinter group of Sh’ia Islam, sufficiently far removed from Muslim doctrine to be sometimes considered a different religion. The Greek Orthodox community, also known as Orthodox Melkite, was the second largest in...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE The First Intervention in Crete (1866–69)
    (pp. 118-140)

    This chapter focuses on the motives of the European powersʹ multilateral intervention of 1867. As we shall see, the British government opposed any forcible action to save strangers, not deeming massacre and atrocities serious or tragic enough to undertake an armed humanitarian intervention. The British put forward a perfectly sensible argument that any rescue operation would have worsened rather than improved the situation of civilian populations. Even if the humanitarian concern might have been genuine, it is clear that the British government had other motives. It was determined not to help Christian Cretans—whose militancy was seen as a manifestation...

  7. CHAPTER SIX Nonintervention during the Eastern Crisis (1875–78)
    (pp. 141-169)

    This chapter examines the concept and practice of humanitarian intervention during the Eastern crisis of 1875–78. I focus on the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina and onthe well-known events of the Bulgarian atrocities, also known as the ʺBulgarian horrors.ʺ I examine the negotiations of the December 1876 Conference of Constantinople, in which European policy-makers did not agree on the possibility of undertaking a humanitarian intervention. The conference proceedings show the kind of peace enforcement (as we would put it today) that European policy-makers wished to implement in the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The failure of the conference...

  8. CHAPTER SEVEN Intermezzo—The International Context (1878–1908)
    (pp. 170-184)

    At least three major changes directly affecting relations between the Ottoman Empire and the European powers took place simultaneously in the late 1870s. First, after the Eastern crisis a majority of European policy-makers considered the Ottoman Empire as ʺunreformable.ʺ The general view across European cabinets and political elites was that reforms were nothing but diplomatic subterfuges, intended to deceive foreigners while changing nothing at home. European policy-makers and international legal scholars recognized the Ottoman Empire as an independent territorial entity, although they did not recognize its domestic sovereignty and authority structures, which they deemed ineffective and ʺuncivilized.ʺ They denied the...

  9. CHAPTER EIGHT Nonintervention on Behalf of the Ottoman Armenians (1886–1909)
    (pp. 185-211)

    This chapter starts with the failed attempts to implement reforms in the Asiatic provinces of the Ottoman Empire after 1878. It then explores the massacres that took up to 100,000 Armenian lives directly and tens of thousands indirectly in 1894–96 and explains why no humanitarian intervention took place after these events.

    The period from the 1870s to 1914 was one of radical change in the character of the Ottoman social order, which saw the ʺArmenian Questionʺ dragged into the international debate to the distress of the Ottomans. As the Ottoman Empire was pushed more and more out of Europe,...

  10. CHAPTER NINE The Second Intervention in Crete (1896–1900)
    (pp. 212-228)

    The second military intervention by the European powers in Crete took place shortly after the Armenian Question was left in abeyance. This intervention was clearly not an instance of humanitarian intervention, but it deserves attention for it points out the extent to which European governments could act contrary to the wishes of public opinion. The latter accused European cabinets of siding with the oppressors instead of acting against massacre. The purpose of the intervention was to help the Ottoman government restore law and order on the island after an insurgency and to avoid further threats to an increasingly fragile international...

  11. CHAPTER TEN Nonforcible Intervention in the Ottoman Macedonian Provinces (1903–08)
    (pp. 229-246)

    The european powersʹ intervention in the Ottoman provinces of Macedonia has to be examined in the wake of the Armenian and Cretan cases. Like the case of Crete, this was not a full-fledged intervention against massacre but still deserves to be examined for it shows how, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of humanitarian intervention was used and abused in Europe. As wrongly as the Armenians, Macedonian nationalists thought that evidence of indiscriminate massacres and atrocities increased the likelihood of an intervention by the European powers. Macedonian nationalists drew the wrong lessons from previous interventions and did...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 247-276)

    The first world War marked the end of tsarist Russia, of the Hapsburg Empire, and of the Ottoman Empire. It was the first total war of the century, in which soldiers and civilian populations suffered as never before. As the Allies’ war propaganda claimed, ʺcivilizedʺ European soldiers now committed massacres and atrocities against other civilized and Christian populations. In 1915 the Bryce report—named for the chair of the Committee of Alleged German Outrages, the same James Bryce so actively involved on behalf of the Armenians and the Macedonians before the war—proclaimed German forces guilty of widespread sadistic outrages...