What are Peace Studies?

Peace Studies: An Academic Discipline

Peace Studies is an academic field that combines many academic disciplines or schools of thought including philosophy, psychology, theology, anthropology, history, sociology, and political science among others. It aims to equip its students with the foundation necessary for understanding the roots of armed conflict, developing the means for the prevention and resolution of human rights violation, terrorism, genocide, and war, and building just and peaceful structures and societies.

Peace Studies finds its roots in the middle 1900’s in Europe when many peace research institutions were established.  Among the first and most highly-respected institutions of this kind are the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Uppsala University’s Department of Peace and Conflict Research in Sweden, and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.

In the United States, the colleges associated with the notable peace churches of the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker were among the first ones to include peace studies in their curriculum. The period following the Vietnam War and the significant build-up of nuclear arms in the 1980’s saw a substantial increase in the academic courses in peace studies.

Today, there are an estimated 400 universities and colleges across the world offering peace studies programs of one type or the other.  Some, like the Kroc Institute, offer advanced academic degree programs in peace studies in graduate school.  The Kroc Institute was established in 1986 to provide direction and leadership in the field of peace studies.  Today, peace studies is a widely accepted field of study that many organizations draw upon. Such organizations include the United Nations, the military, government, civil society groups, humanitarian agencies, and foreign ministries.


This academic field has been around for more than five decades now.  It already has a set curriculum, a noteworthy base of students and professors, and a literature of note including journals and books.  Its traditional method and practice of teaching goes beyond the classroom to include international studies, internships, and experiential learning.

This academic discipline seeks to enlighten individuals about many current issues including terrorism, religious conflict, ethnic violence, civil war, the nuclear arms race, and genocide.  It covers a broad spectrum of essential issues affecting nations across the world including human rights, social change, justice, violence, conflict, and peace. It is remarkable to note that the concept of peace in this particular academic field is not limited to the absence of war.  Peace refers to man being able to live in conditions of sustainable and just peace, such conditions comprising the availability of food and water, education, security from physical violence, and other human rights.

There are many careers open to graduates of this field.  They can become mediators, activists, businessmen, government officials, negotiators, educators, and researchers.  They can work in the many organizations established to achieve conflict resolution, protect the environment, and fight for human rights.  They can work on jobs requiring a firm grasp of economics, human growth and development, and international law.

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