USA Digital History Labs

Studies in War Termination

Major Hallewell, day's work done, photograph by Roger Fenton, courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Franco-Prussian War Primer, by USA-affiliate scholar
The War and Art Project, by Tiffany Beasley
The Troubles Decommissioning Weapons, by Liam Hodges
The War of the Third Coalition and the Fall of the Holy Roman Empire, by Justin Holloway

Battles manifest violence, but rarely end wars. Sometimes victory in battle can even prolong inter-state violence. As demonstrated by research highlighted in The Franco-Prussian War Primer, for example, the Prussian army’s decisive defeat of the French and capture of emperor Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan created a revolutionary situation that actually intensified conflict. Rather than being determined by battle, as Fred Iklé writes, “the final outcomes of wars depends upon a much wider range of factors, many of them highly elusive.”[1]

Original research websites in this collection probe complex issues around war termination. Topics vary from domestic politics to the role of culture.  The War and Art Project investigates the confluence of iconoclasm and violence during the Dutch Revolt of 1566, and in so doing, shows how war-time attacks on culture creates deep hostilities that ultimately prolong violence. 

Other sites examine the influence of external actors, such as the role of peace mediators. One of the biggest challenges confronting peacemakers is persuading warriors to lay down their weapons, a subject explored in Disarming Violence: Decommissioning and the Northern Irish Peace Process.

Finally, The War of the Third Coalition and the Fall of the Holy Roman Empire investigates the termination of a war involving multiple combatants, each having multiple war aims. An underexplored conflict in terms of war Termination, analysis of the Napoleonic Wars reminds us that dramatic victories may change the military landscape but do not necessarily produce lasting peace.

Ranging across time and space, these original research, digital projects highlight direct and indirect obstacles on the path to peace. Each project began in the USA Digital History Lab, and some continue to grow.

[1] Fred Iklé, Every War Must End (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971).