1st Edition

Imperial Powers and Humanitarian Interventions The Zanzibar Sultanate, Britain, and France in the Indian Ocean, 1862–1905

By Raphaël Cheriau Copyright 2021
    270 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    270 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Zanzibar Sultanate became the focal point of European imperial and humanitarian policies, most notably Britain, France, and Germany. In fact, the Sultanate was one of the few places in the world where humanitarianism and imperialism met in the most obvious fashion. This crucial encounter was perfectly embodied by the iconic meeting of Dr. Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley in 1871. This book challenges the common presumption that those humanitarian concerns only served to conceal vile colonial interests. It brings the repression of the East African slave trade at sea and the expansion of empires into a new light in comparing French and British archives for the first time.

    Introduction: Zanzibar or the Dramatic Encounter of Imperialism and Humanitarianism

    Part 1: The Right of Visit, the French Flag and the Repression of the Slave Trade in Zanzibar

    1. The Repression of the Slave Trade: An Impossible Mission?

    2. The French Flag in the Indian Ocean: Myth or Reality?

    3. Dhows and the Indian Ocean Slave Trade: International Law or Imperial Politics?

    Part 2: Empire and Humanitarian Action in Zanzibar: A Troublesome Relationship

    4. A British Vice-Admiralty Court in Zanzibar: Sovereignty and Imperial Interference

    5. The Bartle Frere Mission and the 1873 Treaty: Humanitarian or Imperial Diplomacy?

    6. The 1889 Zanzibar Blockade: An International Humanitarian Intervention or an Apogee of Imperialism?

    Part 3: Zanzibar’s Contribution to International Law and Humanitarian Operations

    7. The 1890 Brussels Conference: An Apogee of Imperial or Humanitarian Politics?

    8. The Hague International Arbitration: The End of an Old Controversy?

    9. Anti-Slave Trade Policies and the "Cause of Humanity" or The Shaping of a New Humanitarian Intervention Theory in International Law

    Conclusion: Abolitionism and Humanitarian Intervention: "Ugly Business Behind Great Words"?


    Raphaël Cheriau is associate member of the UCD Centre for War Studies and Paris-Sorbonne Roland Mousnier Centre.

    "Imperial Powers and Humanitarian Interventions is an essential contribution to the diplomatic and legal history of the second half of the nineteenth century. It shows how the concept of humanitarian intervention emerged on the fringes of the British, Omani and French empires during the suppression of the slave trade, paving the way for the modern history of human rights." 

    - Sue Peabody, Meyer Distinguished Professor of History and Liberal Arts, Washington State University. 

    "Imperial Powers and Humanitarian Interventions is an important work. Using French and British diplomatic sources for the first time, it explores the complex relationship between the humanitarian dynamics of the 19th-century anti-slavery movement and the operations of the British Royal Navy, as well as European imperialism in East Africa."

    - Professor Gwyn Campbell, Canada Research Chair in Indian Ocean World History, and Director of the Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill University.