Magazine article Times Higher Education

All He Is Saying Is Give Peace (and Peace Studies) a Chance

Magazine article Times Higher Education

All He Is Saying Is Give Peace (and Peace Studies) a Chance

Article excerpt

Veteran 'journo-academic' calls for more jaw-jaw and less war-war. Matthew Reisz reports.

"There's a cultural and academic bias against peace studies as a bit soft and self-indulgent, as not dealing with the real world," says John Gittings, a self-described "journo-academic" who is now a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

This was evident, he argues, in the television and radio coverage of the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although a platform was given to anti-war campaigners, pro-war politicians and war historians, "you didn't hear from the peace historians".

But Gittings points out that peace studies has been a "vast expanding enterprise" since the 1970s, with the University of Bradford's department of peace studies leading the way - "despite Mrs Thatcher's attempts to close it down".

He says that a similar attitude to Thatcher's is apparent when one considers the books that get published and the subjects that get taught.

Recalling a visit to a bookshop, Gittings remembers counting "220 shelves of books on war and warfare, with only a few books on peace scattered across 20 shelves".

He says: "You can find five or six editions of books by Machiavelli - The Prince and The Art of War - but it's much harder to find Erasmus' Education of a Christian Prince, although he's also offering his advice on statecraft, including a whole section on 'the arts of peace'.

"I'd like to see them taught together. It's much more fruitful if you study them both. If he'd been taught about Erasmus as well as Machiavelli when he went to school, even George W. Bush might have had a different outlook! Insights from the so-called 'realist' school of international relations need to be balanced by the great names in peace studies."

There is another way

It is precisely because he believes that there is an inspiring but neglected "narrative of peace in our history, which parallels the narrative of war" that Gittings devoted about seven years to his most recent book, The Glorious Art of Peace: From the Iliad to Iraq.

The tome represents the culmination of a career that started at Soas, where he learned Chinese, and then a degree in Oriental studies at the University of Oxford.

Gittings worked as a researcher at the foreign policy institute Chatham House in the early 1960s. …

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