The study of war and peace in Oxford goes back at least to 1587 when Alberico Gentili was appointed Regius Professor of Law and became a seminal contributor to the tradition of just war thinking. The Chichele Chair in Military History was created in 1909 and during the Cold War Oxford became a leading centre for work on war, nuclear strategy and arms control built around the work of such seminal figures as Michael Howard, Alastair Buchan, Hedley Bull, and Robert O’Neil. As Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, Adam Roberts has made critical contributions to study of the laws of war and to our understanding of civil resistance and violent conflict, whilst Martin Ceadel was one of the leading historians of the peace movement. An extraordinarily wide range of major figures in the field began their academic careers in Oxford, including Philip Bobbitt, Lawrence Freedman, Chris Coker, Bruce Hoffmann, John Chipman, Beatrice Heuser, Keith Krause, Audrey Kurth Cronin, Mats Berdal, Ade Adebajo, John Nagl, Evelyn Goh and Sarah Percy.
This tradition not only continues to thrive but Oxford scholars have constantly pushed the boundaries of research in new directions in response to evolving and emerging developments. At Oxford today, faculty members and a new generation of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are engaged with the perennial themes of war and peace that would be familiar to earlier generations (including great power dynamics, strategic studies, and normative work on the ethics of war); but they are also confronting problems and policy challenges that were barely on the horizon a few decades ago, including cyber security and autonomous weapons systems. This ever changing security landscape lies at the core of the research agenda of Oxford’s Changing Character of War Programme, established in 2003 under Sir Hew Strachan.
The scope of the study of war, peace, conflict and security at Oxford has expanded considerably. Oxford scholars are now grappling with an ever growing list of pressing global issues related to armed conflict, encompassing forced migration, human rights, violent non-state groups, and transnational organised crime. Oxford is also home to outstanding scholarship on the study of responses to conflict, including through the United Nations and regional organisations. Peace has been the subject of study of academics and graduate students across departments and faculties. Issues ranging from local peacebuilding initiatives to country-wide peace negotiations and peacekeeping, mediation, the prevention, resolution and transformation of conflict, as well as transitional justice and post-conflict recovery are at the core of our research.
What is apparent from the breadth and depth of contemporary Oxford scholarship is that these issues do not – and cannot – fall within the domain of any single academic discipline. Rather, the range of groups and institutions represented in the War and Peace at Oxford Network is a reflection of the scale and diversity of the intellectual and policy challenges faced in today’s world. The War and Peace at Oxford Network opens up some of the many and varied ways in which historians, political scientists, economists, theologians, anthropologists, geographers, area studies specialists, psychologists, evolutionary theorists, and lawyers are bringing their diverse approaches and perspectives to bear on the immense challenges of war, peace, conflict and security in the 21st century.