Dr Clay taught at Liverpool John Moores University, and the universities of Newcastle and Northumbria before he came to Hull. His research lies in the field of activism, particularly on movements and organisations whose activities transcend national boundaries, with a specific focus on how activists coordinate and the impact of their activism on government domestic and foreign policy.
Dr Clay was a Committee Member of the European research project ‘The Congo Free State Across Language, Culture, Media’ which ran from 2015-18, and is still Editor for the associated website, Congo Free State. It is on this subject that he will be talking. His abstract is below.
The atrocities committed in the Congo Free State (CFS) under the rule of King Leopold II during the age of imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries eventually became one of the greatest international scandals in recorded history. Of all the participants in the scramble for Africa, engaged by most European colonial powers in the nineteenth century, Leopold II, King of the Belgians, left arguably the biggest and most damaging legacy of all. In April 1884, the United States became the first nation to formally recognise the International Association of the Congo’s claim to the territory that would become the CFS. Leopold successfully lobbied President Chester A. Arthur to support his claim, emphasising free trade, humanitarianism, his plan to end the Arab slave trade, and the involvement of Welsh-American Henry Morton Stanley in the project. It was this initial recognition of the flag of the CFS by the United States that later provided the foundations for the American Congo reform movement in the early twentieth century.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the underexplored dimensions of American humanitarian activism on the Congo issue by analysing the reform activities of the American Congo Reform Association (ACRA). The paper will examine the methods that the ACRA deployed in its reform campaign, the transnational dimensions to the campaign through its relationship with the Congo Reform Association (CRA) in Britain, and the impact of its campaign for reform on the foreign policy of the United States government. In doing so, it challenges the dominant historiographical narrative of the reform movement that attributes its success largely to the CRA, instead highlighting the significant role that the ACRA played, and demonstrates the agency of non-state humanitarian actors in directing foreign policy regarding humanitarian issues during the Progressive Era in the United States.
For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at Sophie.Blanchard@hull.ac.uk, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.