Portrait of Dr  Rebecca Gill Dr Rebecca Gill

r.gill@hud.ac.uk | 01484 471871


I have been lecturing at Huddersfield since 2006, after short stints at Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam. My research and teaching interests cover nineteenth and twentieth century history, in particular the history of modern war, humanitarian aid and empire. In 2005, I completed a PhD on the origins of British relief organisations and their interventions in conflicts from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 onwards. This involved research into the early years of organisations such as the British Red Cross Society and Save the Children and some of the protocols, practices and technologies they developed. It has been fascinating to consider the differing motivations of individual relief workers, and their wider political and religious affiliations. Some of these early findings were published as ‘“The Rational Administration of Compassion”: The Origins of British Relief in War’, La Revue Le Mouvement Social, Vol. 217 (April – June 2009) and will appear in full in Calculating Compassion: British Relief in War, 1870-1814 (Manchester University Press, forthcoming, 2012).

More recently, I’ve been researching allegations of atrocity in the conflict between Greece and Turkey in 1919-1923, and the way in which British policy makers and journalists attempted to explain the origins of extreme violence in war. I wrote up these findings as an article which focuses on the reaction of historian and journalist Arnold J. Toynbee, who witnessed first hand the terror of refugees fleeing the violence on Red Crescent ships. This is published in a book I co-authored with Dr Tom Crook and Prof Bertrand Taithe, entitled Liberal Civilization and its Discontent: Evil, Barbarism and Empire (Palgrave, August 2011). In 2011 I was awarded a grant from the Nuffield Foundation to pursue my interests in humanitarian organisations. This project focuses on the Save the Children Fund and their involvement in nursery provision in Britain. Here I am interested in relating their domestic work to their international endeavours, considering such things as the universality of child rights in practice, and investigating the relationship of statutory and voluntary agencies in child development work.

These areas of research have informed my teaching, where I cover topics such as the partition of India, British responses to famine on the Asian subcontinent, First World War atrocity propaganda, the Armenian genocide, aid to Belgian refugees during 1914-18, British Red Cross work in colonial conflict and the First World War, Gandhi’s time in South Africa (including as a volunteer Red Cross worker in the Boer and Zulu wars), and the history of international law. I am also concerned with the study of intellectual and cultural history more broadly, and with equipping students with the practical and theoretical knowledge to pursue their own historical research. These interests underpin my teaching at both BA and MA levels. I was made a fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2011.

At undergraduate level, I am module leader for the first-year module ‘An introduction to the history of ideas: from the Ancients to the Moderns’, the second-year module ‘Modern India from Raj to Independence’ and the third-year module ‘The Great War in Europe: Combat, Atrocity and the Cultures of War, 1914-1918’. At postgraduate level, I am programme director of the MA History course. As part of the MA, I teach ‘Making History: Theory, Method, Practice’, which introduces students to the advanced study of history and enhances historiographical and methodological understanding. I am happy to respond to any queries concerning our postgraduate courses, and how to apply to the MA programme.

Alongside my academic role in the university, I work on increasing the employability of History graduates by running a Work Placement Scheme and careers management package, which includes a skills audit and professional advice on CV writing, job applications, finding placements and progressing onto a career path. All of our students find placements, and do so in a variety of corporate, educational, voluntary and public service settings. For many, this provides the crucial work experience to launch them on a career. I work closely on this scheme with the Careers Service and in partnership with a number of organisations such as Leeds Museums and Galleries, the Royal Armoury, and Wakefield College. I would be glad to provide further details of this scheme, and to respond to expressions of interest from potential work placement providers.

Research and Scholarship

I am currently completing a book entitled ‘Calculating Compassion: British relief in war, 1870-1914’ for Manchester University Press. In the process of research and writing this, I’ve been invited to give papers at Geneva, Cambridge and Bristol, where academics from a broad range of disciplines met to discuss humanitarian aid past and present, often sharing views with practitioners from various relief agencies. This led to an invitation to be a fellow of the Humanitarianism and Conflict Response Institute (www.hcri.ac.uk)

My latest research has taken me to the Save the Children Fund archives, which have been made newly available to researchers, and offer a fascinating insight into both the domestic and international reach of this organisation. In undertaking Nuffield-funded research into SCF’s work in Britain, I have also developed an interest in the origins of their interventions in Africa, many of which also took the form of state-voluntary collaborations. Ultimately, I’d like to extend this into a wider project on the internationalisation of child rights, and how such statutory-NGO interdependence was managed in practice.

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Rebecca, G (2016) ‘Brave little Belgium arrives in Huddersfield ... voluntary action, local politics, and the history of international relief workImmigrants and Minorities , 34 (2), pp. 132-150. ISSN 0261-9288


Gill, R. and Leeworthy, D. (2015) ‘Moral minefields: Save the Children Fund and the moral economies of nursery schooling in the South Wales coalfield in the 1930sJournal of Global Ethics , 11 (2), pp. 218-232. ISSN 1744-9626


Gill, R (2014) ‘The origins of the British Red Cross Society and the politics and practices of relief in war, 1870-1906Asclepio , 66 (1), pp. 1-13. ISSN 0210-4466


Gill, R (2013) Calculating Compassion: Humanity and Relief in War, Britain 1870 - 1914 . Humanitarianism: Key Debates and New Approaches. : Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719078101


Gill, R (2012) ‘Networks of concern, boundaries of compassion: British relief in the South African WarJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History , 40 (5), pp. 827-844. ISSN 0308-6534


Crooke, T., Gill, R. and Taithe, B. (2010) Evil, Barbarism and Empire: Britain and Abroad, c1830-2000 . Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0230241271


Gill, R (2009) ‘“The Rational Administration of Compassion”: The Origins of British Relief in WarLe Mouvement Social , 227 (2), pp. 9-26. ISSN 0027-2671


Gill, R (2007) ‘'Calculating Compassion' in the South African War, 1899-1902: A Case Study in the History of the Origins of Humanitarian Relief’. In: University of Sheffield Imperial History Discussion Group, 10 May 2007, University of Sheffield

Gill, R (2007) ‘Fertility and Female Sexuality: Revisiting the ‘Sexual Revolution’: Book review: ‘The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex and Contraception, 1800-1975’ by Hera Cook, 2004Metascience , 16 (1), pp. 101-105. ISSN 0815-0796


Gill, R (2006) ‘A very Moses in the House of Lords: Disraeli, nationality and the Bulgarian atrocities’. In: Parcours Judaiques. Paris, France: Universite Paris X Nanterre. pp. 57-75. ISBN 2-909980-08-1


Gill, R (2004) ‘Book review: ‘Pulling the Devils Kingdom Down: The Salvation Army in Modern Britain’, by Pamela J. Walker, 2001European Review of History , 11 (3), pp. 450-452. ISSN 1350-7486

Gill, R (2004) ‘The imperial anxieties of a nineteenth century bigamy caseHistory workshop journal , 57, pp. 58-78. ISSN 1363-3554

Research Degree Supervision

I would welcome applications to study for a PhD in nineteenth and twentieth British history, in particular the cultures of modern war, charitable and humanitarian organisations, and the history of empire. Please email me for further details.