Tag Archives: Swarthmore College

125 Years of Peace and Conflict Studies in Higher Education at Swarthmore College

PCS 125 year logoIn recent months, a document was discovered in the Swarthmore College Archives revealing that the first known Peace and Conflict Studies course in higher education, “Elements of International Law with special attention to the important subjects of Peace and Arbitration” was offered by Professor William Penn Holcomb in 1888 at Swarthmore College. Thus, this year, we are celebrating 125 of the origins of peace and conflict studies in higher education!

The Swarthmore College Bulletin has published an article on this exciting finding.

Pioneering Peace Studies

By Sherri Kimmel

Swarthmore College Bulletin, July 2013

That Swarthmore College was an early proponent of peace and conflict studies should come as no surprise to those familiar with the College’s dedication to Quaker values. However, the recent discovery of an article published 125 years ago indicates the College was the first college or university to offer an actual peace-studies course.

Lee Smithey, associate professor of sociology and peace and conflict studies coordinator, announced the distinction at a gathering this spring, reading from an 1888 article that was republished from The Peacemaker (the organ of the Universal Peace Union) in The Friends Intelligencer. Christopher Densmore, curator of the Friends Historical Library, discovered the article and shared it with Smithey.

Parrish Hall after fire 1890
[Parrish Hall in 1890 (photo courtesy of Friends’ Historical Library)]
The article praised the College’s new course in peace and arbitration as “an eventful era in the peace movement of the 19th century. To thus drill, as it were, for peace is to hasten the abolition of war and the military system. All credit to Swarthmore! This example will go round the world.”

Though Swarthmore launched the first course, peace and conflict studies as a discipline “didn’t take off for another 60 years,” says Smithey. Manchester College, founded in Indiana by another historic peace church, the Church of the Brethren, formed the first program in 1948.

According to Smithey, peace and conflict studies programs have gained momentum in waves—after the World Wars and the Vietnam War, and in the 1980s and ’90s, when concern over the proliferation of nuclear arms grew. Now, there are peace and conflict studies programs at about 400 institutions. Swarthmore’s program began in 1991–92 and has 30 students enrolled as minors, honors, or special majors, Smithey says.

Parrish BeachThe program draws courses from a range of social science and humanities departments at Swarthmore and the other campuses of the Tri-College consortium and explores the causes, practice, and consequences of collective violence as well as peaceful or nonviolent methods of dealing with conflict.

Says Smithey of the College’s new distinction, “Swarthmore College was ahead of its time, and 125 years later, we still hold these values as we seek to advance our knowledge about constructive conflict and just and peaceful relations.”

Appreciation for Dean Rafael Zapata

by Lee Smithey

This afternoon, I attended a remarkable (and tasty and musical) reception in appreciation of Dean Rafael Zapata, who will be taking up a new position as Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President at Providence College. Those who spoke shared Dean Zapata’s personal warmth, his deep intellectualism, his love and concern for students, and his relentless commitment to social justice and diversity. It really was moving, especially the spoken word tributes by students and Prof. Kai Campbell.

Dean Zapata, from the Peace and Conflict Studies program, we wish you all success in your new position at a very fortunate institution! You will be missed, but I am already committing myself to think of you as our friend at another college. We still have much to learn from you.