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CFP: ‘Building Peace: Transitional Justice in the Early Modern World’ – DL: 15 May 2024

Call for Papers Building Peace: Transitional Justice in the Early Modern World

International Conference, 3–5 April 2025
University of Groningen, the Netherlands

Organizers: Dr. David van der Linden,
Dr. Marc W.S. Jaffré, and Sherilyn Bouyer, MA

How to reconcile former enemies in the wake of civil conflict and prevent a return to violence? Transitional justice, defined by the United Nations as ‘the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice, and achieve reconciliation’, has become a ubiquitous concept for understanding peacebuilding in the modern world. Transitional justice mechanisms typically include prosecution, reparations, restitution, amnesty, the purging of state officials, truth and reconciliation commissions, and communal remembrance.

Most scholarship has focused on recent theatres of conflict, such as the former Yugoslavia, South Africa, and countries affected by the Arab Spring. Mechanisms associated with transitional justice have a much older history, however, stretching at least as far back as the early modern period. Because the Reformation had split Christendom into competing Protestant and Catholic communities, early modern Europe experienced civil conflict on an unprecedented scale – yet the Wars of Religion at the same time forced societies to develop new peacebuilding strategies. Healing the scars of civil conflict also became a key objective after the Atlantic revolutions, as political opponents had to be reintegrated into the emerging nation state. Nor were peacebuilding efforts exclusive to Europe: post-war societies in Asia and Africa also relied on formal strategies to reconcile former opponents. The Tokugawa Shoguns had to contend with how to make peace after the wars of the Warring States Era, while King Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba had to find a way to make peace after four decades of civil war had ravaged the Kingdom of the Kongo, to name but two examples.

This conference thus approaches the early modern period as a particularly productive field for the wider study of peacebuilding and transitional justice. How exactly did post-war societies before the modern age deal with the challenge of peacebuilding? What particular transitional justice strategies did they develop? And how effective were they in achieving peace and reconciliation, either on a local or national level? As such, this conference aims to evaluate how the study of transitional justice can reshape our understanding of the early modern world – not just as a period of incessant conflict, but also a laboratory for peacebuilding efforts.

We welcome proposals covering any aspect of peacebuilding and transitional justice in the early modern world, both in Europe and beyond. PhDs and early career researchers are especially encouraged to submit; we have funding available to help cover their transport and accommodation. All proposals should include a brief CV and an abstract of no more than 300 words. Please submit your documents by email before 15 May 2024 to Applicants shall be informed by 17 June 2024. It is our intention to publish a selection of the conference papers.

This conference is part of the NWO-funded research project ‘Building Peace: Transitional Justice in Early Modern France’, led by Dr. David van der Linden. For more information on the project, please visit