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Rethinking the origins of transnational humanitarian organizations: the curious case of the International Shipwreck Society

Global Networks

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--- - |2 Abstract This exploration of the evolution of the International Shipwreck Society (ISS) – a previously neglected transnational humanitarian organization that by the late 1830s had branches in every continent – casts new light on three key aspects of the development of global humanitarianism. First, that there was a secular humanitarian association with a global organizational structure in the 1830s challenges widespread assumptions about the timing of internationally organized humanitarian action. Second, the influence of Chinese precedents on the ISS points to the importance of long forgotten Eastern origins of transnational humanitarianism. And third, the evaluation of the role of individuals in the development of the ISS reveals that early transnational humanitarian organizations faced leadership problems that scholars had previously neglected. In each of these respects, this article provides a new perspective on the origins of global networks. - Global Networks, Volume 18, Issue 3, Page 461-478, July 2018.