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Home arrow Political science arrow British Humanitarianism and the Congo Reform Movement, 1896-1913



We are thinking of inviting all organizations interested in the Congo question to join with us in a friendly conference to consider the best means of using further influence, thro’ our own Government or other channels, on Congo authorities.[1]—H.R. Fox Bourne, 1904

To put sustained pressure on the British government, the Congo Free State, and Belgium, the Congo reform movement needed to bring multiple interests and groups into a united campaign. This was clear after the failure of Stead’s IU Congo Committee. From the start, the CRA’s initial Executive Committee was to include people from the worlds of humanitarianism (Fox Bourne), religion (Guinness), commerce (Holt), politics (Emmott and Dilke), and crusading journalism (Morel). The Association’s strategic alliances fell within these categories, with the proviso that religion was not so easily categorized. Missionary societies, churches, and para-religious organizations were potential religious allies, and Guinness was not effective as a gateway to any of them.

As independent organizations, these groups were not always willing to subordinate their views and objectives, making for alliances that could be contentious as well as helpful. While difficulties with allies could take the form of personal conflicts, these conflicts often sprang from substantial divergence of interests. Alliances, a method of accomplishing the CRA’s work, also shed light on the motivations that underlay the movement and some of the forces that impeded its work, as shown by this consideration of the CRA’s connections to the major humanitarian, missionary, church, and commercial organizations

  • [1] Fox Bourne to Buxton, 5 May 1904, Brit. Emp. s.18, C76/89.
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