Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Independent scholar
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Modern European history, international organizations and transnational movements, humanitarian aid and the mission, war and postwar reconstruction, migration and population displacement, women's and gender history.
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Personal Info

About Me

Francesca Piana is a historian of European and international history. She holds an award-winning PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Her research and teaching interests include the history of humanitarian aid, the history of internationalism, the history of migration, and the history of women and gender in 20th century Europe and beyond.

Her first book, The Global Governance of Refugee Protection. Responses to Forced Displacements after WWI, is forthcoming. This book analyzes how the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Nations, and the International Labor Organization conceptualized and responded to the perceived humanitarian needs of POWs from Russia and the defeated powers, as well as those of Russian and Armenian stateless people. This project has spun off articles and chapters looking at the transfer of practices and knowledge in international organizations, exploring the visual policies of humanitarian organizations, the limits of humanitarian protection, and connection of displacement and (un)employment. Her work was published in journals including Relations Internationales, Contemporary European History, and the Revue d’Allemagne et des pays de langue allemande, as well as in volumes with Palgrave Macmillan, Cambridge University Press, Berghahn Books, Peter Lang, and Routledge. She co-edited with Jo Laycock the volume Aid to Armenia. Humanitarianism and Interventions from 1890s to Present recently published by Manchester University Press in 2020.

She is also working on a new project looking at the lives and work of women humanitarians which was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. In the resulting book, provisionally entitled (Re)Birthing Humanity. Gender, Faith, and Humanitarian Aid, 1870s-1970s, she argues that humanitarian biographies – understood as both life writings and life histories – are crucial to understanding the formation of humanitarianism as a field of cultural production with its own (often highly gendered) genres, repertoires and conventions.

Recent Publications

Aid to Armenia. Humanitarianism and Intervention from 1890s to the Present. Co-edited with Joanne Laycock (Manchester, Manchester University Press, October 2020).

“Maternalism and Feminism in Medical Aid. The American Women’s Hospitals in the United States and in Greece, 1917-1941”, eds. Esther Möller, Johannes Paulmann, and Katharina Storing, Gendering Global Humanitarianism in the Twentieth. Practice, Politics and the Power of Representation. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020: 85-114.

“The Dangers of ‘Going Native’: George Montandon and the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1919-1922,” Contemporary European History 25, Special Issue no. 02 (2016): 253-274.

“Photography, Cinema, and the Quest for Influence: the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Wake of the First World War,” eds. Heide Fehrenbach and Davide Rodogno, Humanitarian Photography: A History. Series on “Human Rights in History.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015: 140-164.

“Shaping Poland: Relief and Rehabilitation Programmes Undertaken by Foreign Organizations, 1918–1922,” with Davide Rodogno and Shaloma Gauthier, Shaping the Transnational Sphere: the Transnational Networks of Experts (1840-1930), eds. Bernard Struck, Jakob Vogel, and Davide Rodogno. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014: 259-278.

“Two Eras of Refugee Policy. The Legacies of the League of Nations in the 1940s,” Ideas and Identities. A Festschrift for Andre Liebich, eds. Jaci Eisenberg and Davide Rodogno. Bern: Peter Lang, 2014: 83-101.

“What Does Transnational History Tell Us about a World with International Organizations? The Historians’ Point of View,” with Davide Rodogno and Shaloma Gauthier, Routledge Handbook of International Organizations, ed. Bob Reinalda. London: Routledge, 2013: 95-104.

“L’humanitaire d’après-guerre: prisonniers de guerre et réfugiés russes dans la politique du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge et de la Société des Nations,” Relations internationales 151, no. 03 (2013): 63-75.

“Humanitaire et politique, in medias res: le typhus en Pologne et l’Organisation Internationale d’Hygiène (1919-1923),” Relations internationales 138, no. 02 (2009): 23-38.


Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
Eastern Europe, Mediterranean, Middle East, North America, United States, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
20th century
Expertise by Topic
Gender, Genocide, Local & Regional, Migration & Immigration, Politics, Women, World War I