Times of Peace. History and the imagination of a global community at international peace conferences (ca. 1800-2000)

Research Robbert-Jan Adriaansen

This project analyses the imagination of a global community in discourses on peace during international peace conferences since the early eighteenth century. By questioning which social, cultural and moral principles have been recognized to be constitutive for a global community, this project will study and contextualize the normative premises that have often been used as a point of departure in peace studies.

One of the underlying aims of this project is to deconstruct and historicize common conceptions of peace in popular and political culture and in the field of peace studies.

Often, peace is analysed as a modern concept, as a moral goal of mankind, as something that could (or should) be achieved through human action, as something that can be built. Yet, peace was itself invented as a moral goal in the Enlightenment, and this meaning has not been unanimously established.

The concept has continuously been reinvented and redefined. Nineteenth and twentieth-century peace conferences provided forums for this reinvention as representatives of various national – and increasingly various religious, ideological, social, ethnic and cultural – backgrounds had to agree on shared values. Such an analysis can also shed light on the discursive practices of the inclusion and exclusion of ideas and cultural transfer on the level of international political and intellectual exchange. By problematizing the notion of peace itself, I aim to show how the modern notion of peace was itself the result of a negotiation between religious and secular, inclusive and exclusive, and modern and traditional standpoints. This will be studied in reference to the images and notions of mankind expressed in the discourses surrounding peace conferences and the conceptions of time and history underlying these notions.