Women, children, and baby dragons first

All roads lead back to King’s Landing.

I was pursuing a bit of secondary reading about humanitarian evacuations—well established as a practice now, but not in 1921, when the one I’m writing about took place. There are various examples from later in the twentieth century, especially concerning children: the children brought to France and Britain (and the Soviet Union) during the Spanish civil war, the Kindertransports, or somewhat later the contentious ‘Operation Babylift‘ that removed the children of US servicemen from Vietnam.

The term we use today, though, was slower to emerge. The rough measure of a Google ngram shows that ‘humanitarian evacuation’ is absent from the corpus of books in English before 1968. Rising from that point, there’s a low peak of frequency around 1980, but it’s in the late 1990s that the phrase really takes off, especially with the humanitarian evacuation of Kosovo Albanian refugees who’d fled to Macedonia in 1999. (The UN High Commissioner for Refugees at the time, Sadako Ogata, told the security council that this evacuation had ‘no precedent’ in UNHCR’s history.)

Couldn't get the chart to embed properly, but click through and it should work
Couldn’t get the chart to embed properly, but click through and it should work
Look for scholarly literature on humanitarian evacuation and that’s where most of it is focused, certainly the earliest substantial body of work on a particular case. A more recent example that’s caught some attention, involving an ad hoc collaboration between UNHCR and the International Office for Migration, was the evacuation of ‘third-country nationals’—mostly migrant workers—from Libya in early 2011.


I did come across an article, though, from 2003, that used the term to refer to an earlier period in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Noticing that the author was a PhD student at the time that article came out, I googled her to see if she’d produced any further stuff on humanitarian evacuations. Now a professor at U Mass Amherst and a very prolific human security analyst, Charli Carpenter is also a total sf geek—author of a fine Foreign Affairs article on ‘Game of Thrones as theory‘ and producer of startlingly epic trailers for panels at the International Studies Association.

The one from last year is about killer robots.


When am I next going to a conference?

I can’t express how irritatingly capricious WordPress is being today
about frames, paragraph breaks, and smart quotes.
Believe me, I’ve tried my best.


2 thoughts on “Women, children, and baby dragons first

  1. Charli Carpenter July 22, 2015 / 2:02 am

    Thanks for the shout-out. Long time since I thought about humanitarian evacuation and interesting to see your analysis. PS Don’t miss the Star Wars and International Security panel at next year’s ISA!


    • benjaminthomaswhite July 22, 2015 / 8:19 pm

      You’re welcome! It was a pleasure to read some of the other stuff linked from your staff page, too.


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