chapter  5
Humanitarian history?
ByBertrand Taithe
Pages 12

Humanitarian workers and organisations have been teetering on the brink of historical consciousness for a long time now. Since the mid-1980s many important humanitarian actors have postulated a history of their actions and have set them in some sort of perspective for their own purposes. This historical consciousness has a history of its own, which reveals more about the role of the past in the present than about the past itself. In a recent series of essays heavily inspired by the work of historian Edward Thompson, Didier Fassin (2011) engaged with a discussion of humanitarian ethics as a ‘moral history of the present’, postulating that humanitarian ‘reason’ had become a marker of historical consciousness.