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Lees Knowles Lectures 2022: ‘The Civilianization of War’

In this year’s Lees Knowles Lectures, Professor Jay Winter, Charles J Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, will explore the aftermath of the First World War, from the Armistice of 1918 to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, and the precedent the latter set for ethnic cleansing.

The Lees Knowles Lectures take place in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre at 5pm on Wednesday 12, 19 and 26 October and 2 November 2022.

All welcome. No booking required.

Professor JAY WINTER. Photograph: © especialista em guerras, Brenno Carvalho / Agência O Globo

Professor Jay Winter writes:

Long after the Armistice of 11 November 1918, war raged in a huge arc extending from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. On 24 July 1923, on the shores of Lake Geneva, at Lausanne, the last Peace Treaty of the Great War was signed.

In the Lees Knowles Lectures 2022 I will explore the transition from war to peace in this period.   Their premise is that as war changes, so does peace. What set apart the Lausanne Treaty from all others signed by the belligerents of the Great War was a provision for compulsory population exchange between Greece and the new republican regime in Turkey.

After previous wars, arrangements for the exchange of prisoners of war were agreed. In 1923 peace arrived when the belligerents agreed as well to a forced exchange of over 1.5 million civilians.

With exceptions, Muslims were barred from living in Greece as citizens, and Greek Orthodox Christians were barred from living in Turkey as citizens. Those who had not already fled were deported from villages and towns in which many had lived for centuries.

The validation in international law of what we now call ethnic cleansing was a recognition of a radical change in the nature and scope of armed conflict. I term this development the civilianization of war.

My lectures will trace the origins of this new kind of dialectic between war and peace in four cities.

The first is Geneva, the seat of the League of Nations, where Fridtjof Nansen acted as an intermediary in the formulation of the population exchange agreement.

The second is Ankara, where the new regime adopted a strategy of self-determination based not on democracy but on ethnic cleansing.

The third is Athens, to which in 1922 and after over one million came as a consequence of the war and the peace that followed it.

The fourth is Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, by 1922 transformed into a Soviet Socialist Republic. Gone were the aspirations of Armenians for justice after the genocide of 1915; gone were their hopes of a national homeland in Anatolia.

In these lectures I will show the ways in which the shaping of the peace of 1923 turned it into a precedent for other moments of ethnic cleansing in the following decades and beyond. The Treaty of Lausanne was a new kind of peace, one which recognized that innocent civilians, because of their religion, were just as much the targets of warfare and of peacemaking as were soldiers.

The civilianization of war is a reality, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrates. I argue that the origins of this mutation of war and peace must be sought a century ago, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, during the Great War and its long aftermath between 1918 and 1923.

Lecture 1: From Geneva to Lausanne, 12 October. Watch a recording.

Lecture 2: From Ankara to Lausanne, 19 October. Watch a recording.

Lecture 3: From Athens to Lausanne, 26 October. Watch a recording.

Lecture 4:  From Yerevan to Lausanne, 2 November

The face of compulsory population exchange: two exhausted refugees en route from Anatolia to Greece, 1922. From the William C Moore Collection, Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

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