While reflecting on the differences that were said to divide the human family, P. H. Kerr posed the question: 'What is the obligation on those who by reason of their own claim to superior civilisation have the responsibility for saving the weak from the ravages of the strong?' 1 He answered this query by suggesting that some people, on account of superior virtue, a sharp sense of personal responsibility, and great achievements in the fields of politics, law, education, commerce, science, and industry, may rightly regard themselves as the leaders of mankind. In contrast, so-called backward peoples, those mired in a state of ignorance, idleness, and poverty, were destined to obey until they were able to take their place alongside more advanced peoples. The superiority that Kerr ascribed to civilization-European civilization to be precise-did not, however, issue licence for the domination and exploitation of the disadvantaged. Alien rule could be justified only so far as it encouraged backward peoples to the ranks of civilized life. Public order, the rule of law, and useful education had to be instituted in places where they were absent; and conditions of human suffering, poverty, and the sort of cruelty that was the hallmark of uncivilized society, had to be eradicated wherever they were found. Civilization was something that had to be shared collectively by a humanity that embraced both the 'zenith of civilisation' and the 'nadir of barbarism'. 2 Indeed, Kerr understood the claim of superior civilization as transcending the particular allegiances of citizenship. Europeans were obliged to assist Africans and Asians, he argued, 'not from any pride of dominion, or because they wish to exploit their resources, but in order to protect them alike from oppression and corruption, by strict laws and strict administration, which shall bind foreigners as well as the native, and then they must gradually develop, by education and example, the capacity in the natives to manage their own affairs'. 3 To act in any other way would be to deny underdeveloped segments of the human family a chance at improvement and progress.
In this understanding of obligation we are able to discern the main contours of the idea of trusteeship in international society. But in order to grasp