European medical experts in wars of 'others' : the Greco-Turkish War of 1897
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European review of history, Vol. 26, no. 2, 2019, p. 163-177
In current debates on humanitarianism and empire, historians of the nineteenth century have focused mostly on engagement of British, French and German individuals in their own imperial wars. However, many medical experts from these empires crossed imperial boundaries and risked their lives on foreign battlegrounds. This article elaborates on the involvements of experts in the 'wars of others' by focusing on the presence of humanitarian missions and surgeons from all over Europe in the short Greco-Turkish War of 1897. What prompted them to ignore criticism levelled against such involvement by their compatriots and the existing medical staff of both sides of the conflict ? Tracing the global compassion that the locally confined hostilities between Greece and the Ottoman Empire inspired, the article first highlights the institutional mobilization of humanitarian associations in Britain, France and Germany. It then delves into individual reasons for taking action. Drawing on newspaper articles, institutional reports and individual medical publications, the article discusses how European experts used the wars of 'others' to test and assess recent medical knowledge and new technologies. These experts' practices of comparing reveal that the physicians considered the Greco-Turkish War less as a conflict of foreign powers than as a laboratory for future wars of their own empires.
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