Adam Curle: Radical Peacemaker and Pioneer of Peace Studies

Tom Woodhouse


This article presents a biographical account of Adam Curle, focusing especially on the development of his ideas on peace and peace studies and the impact these had on the evolution of the field at the level of theory and of practice. Curle was the founding Professor of the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in the UK. Appointed to the Chair in 1973, the department launched its teaching and research programmes in 1974. Curle's influence on the department and his development of a theory and practice of peace and peacemaking is traced and analysed in this article. His theory of peace was based on a synthesis of academic perspectives drawing on psychology, anthropology and development theory, and on the early peace theory of other innovators in the field of peace studies, including Johan Galtung and Kenneth Boulding. His peace practice was based on the experience of large scale conflict in the Nigerian Civil War and the India Pakistan conflict in the 1960s and 1970s, and was distinguished by his use of non-official or track two mediation as a complement to formal diplomacy in such conflicts. His use of mediation was modified later when, in the 1990s, in the context of the civil war in the Balkans, he helped to mobilise support for local people who wished to resist the civil war and to build peaceful communities and cultures of peace. In this way he also pioneered the idea of peace building from below, currently recognised as a leading mode of peacemaking amongst academics and practitioners.


peace education; mediation; peace theory; peace building from below

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