August 22nd, 1864 – The Geneva Conventions Changes War


The Swiss social activist Henry Dunant visited wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino in 1859. He was shocked by the lack of facilities, personnel, and medical aid available to help these soldiers. As a result, he published his book, Memoir of the Solferino, in 1862, on the horrors of war, and two years later bring about the first of the Geneva Conventions.


His wartime experiences inspired Dunant to propose:

  • A permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid in times of war
  • A government treaty recognizing the neutrality of the agency and allowing it to provide aid in a war zone

The former proposal led to the establishment of the Red Cross in Geneva. The latter led to the 1864 Geneva Convention, the first codified international treaty that covered the sick and wounded soldiers in the battlefield. For both of these accomplishments, Henry Dunant became corecipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

The ten articles of this first treaty were initially adopted on August 22nd, 1864 by twelve nations. Clara Barton was instrumental in campaigning for the ratification of the 1864 Geneva Convention by the United States, which eventually ratified it in 1882.


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