A Memory of Solferino- Henry Dunant

A Memory of Solferino- Henry Dunant

(Because apparently information about the author is important and I’m not about to take handwritten notes on this guy)

  • “father of the red cross”
  • super ambitious guy
  • Dunant’s big ideas:
    • societies of trained volunteers should be organized in all countries for the purpose of helping to care for wounded combatants in time of war
    • international treaty among nations to assure more humane care of the wounded
  • won the Nobel Peace Prize! cool guy
  • ICRC said this about him: “There is no man who more deserves this honour, for it was you, forty years ago, who set on foot the international organization for the relief of the wounded on the battlefield. Without you [Dunant], the Red Cross, the supreme humanitarian achievement of the nineteenth century, would probably never have been undertaken” (3).


Okay, this isn’t from the reading but the reading was just starting off so slow and I didn’t know what was happening so I looked up the Battle of Solferino and found this:

The Battle of Solferino on 24 June 1859 resulted in the victory of the allied French Army under Napoleon III and Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II (together known as the Franco-Sardinian Alliance) against the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. My one and only.
Battle of Solferino. (2017, August 28). Retrieved September 11, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Solferino

I know it’s only page 6 but I am not enjoying this reading. The writing style is weird and honestly I’m just a bit (very) bored.

Dunant is just describing everything that happened, almost minute by minute and there are no ideas to analyze- I think a lot of this detail is unnecessary and could be eliminated to make a shorter, more readable paper. Honestly, all I’m getting is that there’s a lot of death.

Okay, I found something not uninteresting: “From the midst of all this fighting which went on and on all over the battlefield, arose the oaths and curses of men of all the different nations engaged -men, of whom many had been made into murderers at the age of twenty!” (8). I’m finding this interesting because Dunant has found a way to relate all of the soldiers of all of the countries fighting against each other; I would say it’s kind of cute but given the circumstances I think I’ll refrain. Dunant makes a few other comments about the bravery and resilience of soldiers which also kind of unites them. It kind of seems like he’s looking for the humanity in people or using people’s humanity to find a common ground. That’s pretty cute.

I’ve gotta say, although this is really boring and I’m reading very little of it in depth (or at all) I’m impressed that this is all from memory. There’s a lot of content here and if it’s actually a “memory of Solferino” this guy was gifted with some great long-term memory.

This is not to disregard what I’m sure was horrible and awful and everything bad, but there’s, like, a whole three pages dedicated to how shitty everything was after the battle itself was over- but also how wonderful everyone was to each other. I will admit, like I said before, I’m not exactly reading this word-for-word (or at all) but it seems that although lots of people were dying or dead, the community that developed because of this tragedy was humanitarian and friendly and kind. Which I think is kind of great.

I’ll quote something (because clearly I’m fond of quoting the readings) about humans being nice to each other: “The moral sense of the importance of human life; the humane desire to lighten a little the torments of all these poor wretches, or restore their shattered courage; the furious and relentless activity which a man summons up at such moments: all these combine to create a kind of energy which gives one a positive craving to relieve as many as one can. There is no more grieving at the multiple scenes of this fearful and solemn tragedy. There is indifference as one passes even before the most frightfully disfigured corpses. There is something akin to cold calculation, in the face of horrors yet more ghastly than those here described, and which the pen absolutely declines to set down” (17).

I also just skipped, like, ten pages because I’m hungry.

Okay, on page 30 some guy (I can’t tell and don’t feel like checking) starts to summarize and analyze Dunant’s points which I should have just started with, dammit. This person says that Dunant summarized and described but he also “put forward ideas and proposals for the future.” This same guy is giving me the aim of Dunant’s proposals, too. #bless

  • “to create in all countries voluntary ‘relief societies for the purpose f having care given to the wounded in wartime'”
  • “to formulate an ‘international principle, sanctioned by a Convention inviolate in character'”

And overall Dunant helped create the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). Good guy Dunant.


  • Does Dunant embellish the details and add on to what he can’t necessarily remember or was it so horrific that it’s somehow engraved into his memory?
  • Dunant seems to romanticize a lot of what occurs during the battle- is he actually romanticizing war or is the seemed enthusiasm actually just to get the tone of the war across? (So war! Many fight!) (I did a little more ‘research’ and he actually uses 67 exclamation marks throughout the essay- that’s almost 2 per page. My parents know how I feel about exclamation marks. I’m not a fan.)
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  • Dunant talks a lot about people coming together after the fight (I should probably find a real example of this); is that a pretty common thing in all wars or is it a cultural thing?