August 22, 1864: representatives from twelve European countries convene in Switzerland to sign the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field.
The above painting by Charles Édouard Armand-Dumaresq depicts the signing, which instituted international standards for the treatment of non-combatants during wartime. Protected parties included civilians, injured soldiers, hospitals and sanctuaries, and the 3-year-old International Red Cross. The signing nations (just in case you’re keeping score) are listed below. You’ll notice that since this was pre-1871, what we know now as Germany looked quite different back then.
-Grand Duchy of Baden (now Germany) -Kingdom of Belgium -Kingdom of Denmark -French Empire -Grand Duchy of Hesse (now Germany) -Kingdom of Italy -Kingdom of the Netherlands -Kingdom of Portugal -Kingdom of Prussia (now Germany) -Kingdom of Spain -Swiss Confederation -Kingdom of Württemberg (now Germany)
As you probably know, the Geneva Convention has been revised several times in the years since 1864. The most current iteration, which was negotiated in 1949, has been ratified by 196 countries.
Here’s what the original document looks like today:
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