In May 2021, we commemorated the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the Resolution 2286 by the UN Security Council on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict. It is thus a particularly apposite time to reflect on how historians have approached the issues of violence, health and care in wartime and how historical approaches might be relevant in contemporary debates about attacks on healthcare. As practitioners, lawyers and public health specialists have called for more research on the issue, many, academics and policymakers alike, have searched for historical precedents to better understand current debates about the definition(s) and impacts of attacks on healthcare. In this context, the Researching the Impact of Attacks against Healthcare (RIAH) and AHRC-funded ‘Colonial and Transnational Intimacies’ projects jointly co-organized a one day workshop aimed at stimulating discussion between historians of wartime medicine, international humanitarian laws, caregiving and humanitarianism. The workshop brought together an interdisciplinary range of scholars and humanitarian activists from Britain, France, the United States, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland. The aims of this workshop were to stimulate dialogue between hitherto distinct historiographies, consider how historical studies can be of use for today’s on-going debates around improving data collection and bolstering political support, and providing a new road map of research for a betterunderstanding of the ways in which the concept of ‘attacks against healthcare’ shifted over time. Bringing together 32 participants, the workshop generated a forum for debate around the usefulness and limitations of the concepts of medical neutrality and impartiality, the gendering of victimhood/heroic medical narratives, and the history of what counted as an attack.
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