CFP: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Challenge of a New World Order (Paris, June 2019)

A century ago today, the end of the carnage unfolding between the trenches of the Western Front of the First World War was scarcely imaginable. But so momentous were the consequences for subsequent world history of the eventual end of the conflict – the Versailles and other treaties that emerged from the Paris Peace Conference, and the movements that sought to influence them – that organizers are already mobilizing for a “major international conference” on the subject in the very city where the post-WWI order was shaped in 1919.

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The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, among the main sites of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 / Image: paristoversailles.org

To be convened under the aegis of the Institut historique allemand (IHA)/Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris (DHIP), LABEX EHNE, and the Commission d’histoire des relations internationales/Commission for the History of International Relations, “[t]he purpose of this event is to re-examine the history of the Peace Conference through a thematic focus on the different approaches to order in world politics in the aftermath of the First World War.” The organizers further specify:

By ‘order’, we mean in the first instance, the articulation and development of systematic ideas, institutions and practices aimed at promoting a durable peace that would deliver security, economic recovery and social justice. This distinguishes thinking about ‘order’ from discussions of ‘national interests’ – though there was of course overlap between these two modes of thinking about future international relations. Second, we are interested in ‘order’ as an analytical concept in its own right. This encourages historians to identify, as Paul Schroeder has urged, the shared rules, assumptions, and understandings about a particular set of political relations and to show how specific decisions reflect the norms of the order.

Such an approach “opens the way for posing new questions and for thinking about more familiar questions in new ways,” including the difference between different conceptions of order present at the conference and ideas about the rule of law, the role of power politics in such ideas of order, the role of absent parties from the conference in shaping such ideas, the origin points of different theories of order (including their continuity or otherwise with ideas that were extant prior to the war or their inspiration points – whether citizen groups, NGOs, or extent regional orders), the extent to which the peace treaties incorporated orders, the means by which they were justified to publics or rejected in favor of other concerns, the means by which their incompatibility with other concerns may have produced disorders, the roles played by gender, class, and race in determining or reacting to such orders, and the extent to which the ideas present at Paris in 1919 endured – perhaps for a whole generation.

The organizers are especially keen to achieve true global representation at the conference and are especially interested in perspectives from and about regions beyond the Western world. The conference languages will be both English and French, and funds may be available for travel. The deadline for conference proposals – of no more than 500 words – is 1 June 2018; these must be received, with a short CV, in either of the conference languages, to Axel Dröber at ADroeber@dhi-paris.fr. The conference announcement provides some additional information.

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