A History of Alternative Dispute Resolution

By Fazzi, Cindy | Dispute Resolution Journal, February-April 2005 | Go to article overview

A History of Alternative Dispute Resolution


Fazzi, Cindy, Dispute Resolution Journal


Snapshots of ADR History A History of Alternative Dispute Resolution. By Jerome T. Barrett and Joseph P. Barrett. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint (www.josseybass.com), 2004. Hardcover. $40. 296 pages.

Reading this book is like looking at snapshots. You get to see the most interesting parts of a huge picture-and the history of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is dauntingly huge.

This work is partly a product of the authors' frustration that no book of this kind has been written before. While many publications have tackled bits and pieces of the history of ADR, this is the first to put all those bits and pieces together.

Jerome and Joseph Barrett, a father-son writing team, start their book in 1800 B.C., when the Mari Kingdom (known today as Syria) used ADR to settle conflicts with other kingdoms. Existing documents show how a king intervened in a dispute between two other kings, with references to the use of arbitration and mediation.

Like a snapshot, however, a few paragraphs are all you get in this book about the Mari Kingdom, and perhaps that's all a reader can realistically expect.

Roots of ADR

Negotiation is the root of all ADR forms, according to the authors. "At its core, two people simply talk about a problem and attempt to reach a resolution both can accept," they write. In this sense, it can be said that ADR started at the dawn of time.

The book cites evidence that the Amarna system of international relations-the earliest forms of diplomatic negotiations-begun in 1400 B.C., were used by kings in the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf to discuss trade, war, peace, and their relationships.

The authors mention ancient forms of arbitration involving the Greeks, the popes, and European kings. They refer to anthropological and sociological studies that show that ADR was use in traditional societies, such as by the Kpelle people of central Liberia, Hawaiian Islanders of Polynesian ancestry, and the Abkhazian of the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia in the former Soviet Union.

Native Americans

There is more extensive discussion about the roots of ADR in the United States. The authors discuss the use of ADR by colonists and Native Americans. "In the 1750s, as Pennsylvania's Indian commissioner, [Benjamin] Franklin said the Indians gave him an education in persuasion, compromise, and consensus building. …

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