Cultures of conflict resolution in early modern Europe
University of Cambridge, 4 May 2012
Disputes, discord and reconciliation are part of the fabric of communal living. Early modern Europe was no exception. Indeed, in a time when enmity could be, in John Bossy’s words, 'a force', 'personal, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball . . . a formal and public condition’ conflict was especially prominent. However, the ways in which disputes and discord were dealt with could vary from person to person, and from one culture to the next. The methods and resources available to pursue enmities, to make peace and resolve conflict could depend on gender, social standing and age. Reconciliation could be both a formal and informal process. The pursuit of conflict resolution, moreover, could involve whole villages, and all manner of personnel including local magistrates, legal faculties, priests, government officials and the nobility. It was a communal affair.
It was also a deeply gendered process. Men and women had different methods of pursuing peacemaking, could be involved in different types of conflict, and often had highly different experiences of the process.
This conference seeks to trace cultural codes of conflict resolution in the early modern world. How did these vary from man to woman, old to young, and village to village? What methods of peace-making were available, and to whom? How did courts work? What were the languages of conflict and reconciliation, and who had recourse to them? What role did emotions, factions and the law play in conflict resolution? Did ‘official’ ideas of conflict resolution clash with local ones?
We also plan to investigate the relationship that study of dispute resolution has with chronologies of change in the early modern world. The end of feud and the triumph of law and the state has often been seen as the mark of modernity. Norbert Elias’s ‘civilizing process’ was tied to the restraint of violence, and Weber’s ‘monopoly of violence’ is still referred to often in histories of the state. Can new histories of conflict resolution provide revised accounts of processes of ‘civilization’, emotional ‘restraint’, and state formation? We are, moreover, keen to forge global connections and comparisons. Are there specifically Christian aspects to most Western conflict resolution that differ in, for example, the Islamic world? How did burgeoning states outside of Europe deal with the disruptive effects of feuding?
Finally, this conference will provide an occasion to reflect on the seminal volume edited by John Bossy Disputes and Settlements: Law and Human Relations in the West, published almost thirty years ago. How have the last three decades of historiography changed perspectives, methodologies and approaches? What has the impact of interdisciplinary influences been?
We hope to assemble around 10 speakers who are in the early stages of their academic career. We are interested in a variety of approaches to, and aspects on, conflict resolution in the early modern world. Please submit paper proposals (500-750 words) by 31 December 2011. Invitations to present at the colloquium will be given by 31 January 2012.
Send paper proposals to the convenors Stephen Cummins firstname.lastname@example.org and Laura Kounine email@example.com by 31 December 2011.