Revisiting the Memory of Solferino: Knowledge Production and the Laws of War

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During the course of the second half of the 19th century, the rules regulating the conduct of armies during hostilities were internationally codified for the first time. The conventional narrative attributes the codification of the laws of war to the campaign of civil society, especially that of the founders of the Red Cross—Henry Dunant and Gustav Moynier. In what follows, we problematize this narrative and trace the construction of this knowledge. We explore how the leading figures of the Red Cross, who were aware of the shortcomings of their project, were nonetheless invested in narrating its history as a history of success. Their struggle to control the narrative would eventually confer the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with considerable interpretive and agenda-setting authority in the realm of the laws of war. We dwell on the meaning of this conscious exercise in knowledge production and its normative ramifications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Law's Invisible Frames
EditorsAndrea Bianchi, Moshe Hirsch
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780192847539
StatePublished - 2021


  • Battle of Solferino
  • international humanitarian law
  • laws of war
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • Henry Dunant
  • Gustav Moynier
  • narrative
  • knowledge production


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