Publication Date

December 1, 1997

The terror, futility, and destructiveness of war have been with us since time immemorial. Because conflict is central to the story of humanity, scholars have studied and been fascinated by war and its narrative power. Facing this strong current, a group of scholars at the December 1963 annual meeting of the AHA formed what has become the Peace History Society (PHS), an association committed to a clear focus on the conditions and causes of peace. In the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and amid the rising tumult in Vietnam, came the realization by many academics that a central task must be to broaden our understanding of and the possibilities for world peace. Today, PHS boasts a diverse, international membership of university scholars, secondary school teachers, peace activists, and the interested public.

Since the formal founding of the group in 1964, PHS members have concerned themselves with making peace research relevant to an array of scholarly disciplines, government policymakers, and society at large. Over the years, PHS-sponsored panels have become a regular part of the sessions of the AHA, the Organization of American Historians, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), and the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, among others. PHS sponsors numerous publications, including Blanche Wiesen Cook, Bibliography on Peace Research in History (1969); Charles Barker, ed., Power and Law: An American Dilemma in World Affairs (1970); John Chambers, ed., Peace Research and Its Impact on Curriculum (1973); Solomon Wank, ed., Doves and Diplomats: Foreign Offices and Peace Movements in Europe and America in the Twentieth Century (1978); Harold Josephson, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders (1985); Charles DeBenedetti, ed., Peace Heroes in Twentieth Century America (1986); Charles Chatfield and Peter van den Dungen, eds., Peace Movements and Political Cultures (1988); Melvin Small and Wiliam D. Hoover, eds., Give Peace a Chance Exploring the Vietnam Antiwar Movement (1992); Charles Chatfield and Ruzanna Ilukhina, eds., Peace/Mir: An Anthology of Historic Alternatives to War (1994); and the impressive 360-volume reprint series, The Garland Library of War and Peace, edited by Blanche Wiesen Cook, Sandi Cooper, and Charles Chatfield.

The society's journal, Peace & Change, cosponsored with the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development (COPRED), has a substantial North American as well as an international audience and is currently available to British libraries in electronic form. Through the work of energetic editors, the journal has grown steadily in size and expanded the boundaries of peace studies to include civil rights and gender issues, ethnic relations, refugee problems, patterns of economic development, crosscultural conflict resolution, United Nations peacekeeping efforts, and feminist and discourse analyses. During the past several years, the journal has featured special forums on the state of peace history (January 1995), the end of the war in Vietnam (April 1995), and the antinuclear activism of Helen Caldicott (July 1997). In addition, guest editors have contributed journal issues devoted to gender, race, and ethnicity (October 1995) and the “Greater Kent State Era” (April 1996).

PHS has sponsored conferences of its own and in collaboration with others. Topics have included 'Wars and Societies," "Peace Research and Its Impact on the Curriculum," "North American-European Consultation of Citizens' Peace Initiatives," "The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era," and, most recently, two related conferences on "Peace and War Issues"-the first at Rutgers University in 1993, "Gender, Race, and Ethnicity," and the second at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1997, "Gender, Race, Identity, and Citizenship." The society has also sought to establish a continuing dialogue with those in related fields; in recent years PHS has cosponsored very successful conferences with SHAFR and the American Military Institute.

PHS members represent a broad spectrum of the scholarly community and work closely with other organizations with similar goals. For this reason, the society has linked itself with such groups as COPRED, the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, IPRA, and the International Congress of Historical Sciences. PHS has also acquired nongovernmental organization status at the United Nations. Future plans include cosponsoring a panel with the World History Association at the 1999 AHA annual meeting, assembling sessions for the 1999 meeting of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and participating in international conferences to be held under the auspices of IPRA (Durban, South Africa, 1998) and the World Federalist Movement (The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, 1999). In 2000 PHS will sponsor sessions at the convention of the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Oslo, the home of the Nobel Institute.

Peace research has expanded dramatically in recent years. To honor superior scholarship in this rich, burgeoning field, PHS has awarded since 1989 the biennial Charles DeBenedetti Prize to the author or authors of an outstanding journal article (published in English) on peace history.

At the 1998 AHA annual meeting, the society will offer a lively, provocative panel entitled, "Gender Roles and Nuclear Disarmament Activism." Lawrence Wittner (professor of history at State Univ. of New York at Albany and author of the forthcoming Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954–1970) will speak on “Women, Men, and the Bomb: A Global Perspective, 1954-65.” Dee Garrison (professor of history, Rutgers Univ., and currently completing a MacArthur Fellowship-funded book on the history of resistance to civil defense in the nuclear age) will speak on “Air Raids and Baby Teeth: The Fight against American Nuclearism, 1950s-80s.” Together, they will explore how the menace of nuclear annihilation helped transform gender roles, as well as national security policy, in numerous nations. The panel will be chaired by Geoffrey Smith (professor of history, Queen’s Univ.) and will feature commentaries by Blanche Wiesen Cook (Distinguished Professor of History, City Univ. of New York) and Joan Hoff (professor of history, Indiana Univ. and Ohio Univ.). The panel will meet on January 9, 9:30-11:30 am., in suite 428 of the Sheraton Hotel. All those interested are cordially invited to attend.

The Peace History Society will hold its annual business meeting that morning, at 7:45 a.m., in suite 426 of the Sheraton. A light breakfast will be served. All scholars interested in peace issues are welcome.

PHS officers for 1997-98 are , president (Mount Saint Vincent Univ.); Scott Bills, vice president (Stephen R Austin State Univ.); and Geoffrey Smith, executive secretary-treasurer (Queen's Univ.). PHS coeditor of Peace & Change is Donald Birn (State Univ. of New York at Albany).

Membership is open to all people interested in the work of the society. Annual dues are $35 (with a special rate of $20 for students, retirees, and the unemployed). In addition to receiving quarterly issues of Peace & Change and the Organization newsletter, members nominate and elect their officers. A North American Board of Directors and an International Board both help to set policy and direct the affairs of the society.

Those wishing to join PHS or obtain further information should contact Geoffrey Smith at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada; e-mail:; web site:

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