John F. Hutchinson, Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross, Westview Press, 1996; 448 pp.
John Hutchinson’s well-researched consideration of the first 60 years of the Red Cross is not an official history, in fact there were difficulties in gaining access to sources because of organisational defensiveness. It challenges some cherished assumptions, including the organisation’s very raison d’être, apparently so obvious and so obviously correct. From the start there were two views on the desirability of setting up an international organisation of volunteers to alleviate the suffering of war. One strong critic (on interesting grounds) was Florence Nightingale: ‘Such a society would take upon itself duties which ought to be performed by the government of each country and would relieve them of responsibilities which really belong to them and which they can properly discharge and being relieved of which would make war more easy.’ (p.40)