An encyclopedia is by nature both arbitrary and uneven in style and substance. The first great modern encyclopedia, the original Encyclopédie of the Enlightenment, was both arbitrary and uneven, yet it represented a watershed in civilized, not merely European, thought, providing a fresh perspective, both scientific, rational, and moral, and normative and humanistic. The concept of peace is so broad, plural, contested, and ambitious that a contemporary encyclopedia of peace will necessarily incorporate many of the topics of that eighteenth-century encyclopedia.
Indeed, so diffuse are the notion and definition of peace that it has been argued that peace is not a subject that can be studied, or (as will be discussed later) that it cannot be studied objectively, as it is a “value.” It is nevertheless claimed that the institution of war, and possibly conflict more generally, can be so dispassionately studied. This encyclopedia seeks to correct that imbalance by including the positive as well as the negative aspects of peace, in both praxis and research—that is, the presence of peace (or peaceful relations) and not just its absence, as in war or in unpeaceful relations at every level of social life. In other words—those of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his Foreword to this encyclopedia—its purpose is to allow us to “better understand and communicate both the ideals of peace and practical ways of achieving them,” because both “serious research and education” are also needed.
There was in the Encyclopédie a short but impressively argued entry on “Peace” (which is reprinted in translation in an appendix to the present encyclopedia); the article rebuts Hobbesian arguments for “negative” peace and the inevitability of war and praises social harmony and human cooperation as peacefulness. Slavery, human rights, and the impact of European expansion, however, were of more concern to the philosophes of 1751 than was war, which was a limited, small-scale affair in most eighteenth-century engagements in Europe and even on the limits of its empires. Violence was seen to exist at least as much in the social structures of the ancien régime, and violence is the underlying concern of many of their and our entries, foreshadowing our own concept of “structural violence.”
It was in 1751, under Diderot's inspired entrepreneurial editorship, that the publication of the seventeen volumes of that first great encyclopedia began, with much innovative and controversial thinking on old topics, older approaches to new topics, and analysis and evidence, all deployed as tools of demystification. In few areas of human activity is that more necessary now, in a new global millennium, than on the topics of conflict transformation, war, nonviolence, and peace-making that are dealt with in these four volumes. Here, too, we present a combination of experience and novelty, of the practical and the speculative. The concept of peace and of alternatives to violent conflict has evolved since the early twentieth century, as knowledge and scholarship have accumulated across all the academic disciplines.
In compiling their Encyclopédie of Enlightenment rationalism, the philosophes had several purposes, both latent and manifest: updating research, spreading a rationalist humanist approach, broaching criticisms of current assumptions and institutions. Their work also had an implicit moral humanitarian purpose, that of raising humanity to a new level by demystifying, demythologizing, and debunking existing ideas, structures, and institutions. Some claim that “peace is a value and cannot be studied.” To the extent that these volumes are ethically driven, it is in the same manner as the humanitarian morality of the philosophes: that deconstructing national-security myths or other shibboleths of traditional military-centered thought (itself value-laden) is best done by dispassionate examination of topics and situations, with careful assessment of real and enduring possibilities. As Kenneth Boulding observed, “If peace has occurred, it is possible”—a profoundly rational conclusion that does not promise any particular outcome.
Breaking with the practice of previous encyclopedic projects that evolved during the later seventeenth century, the original Encyclopédie was deeply influenced by the liberalism of Locke and Voltaire: tolerance, or respect for various cultures, not a uniformity of ideas, was the basis of peace and human civility. Of nineteenth-century academic disciplines, it is therefore anthropology which the Encyclopédie most closely resembles and prefigures, and it is anthropology that is arguably the most important of the inherited, conventional scholarly fields for the study of peace.
There are multiple approaches, cultural perspectives, definitions, and concepts of peace: from the personal to the global; from peace through military strength to absolute pacifism and nonviolence; from secular and pragmatic to spiritual and other-worldly understandings of peace. These concepts have developed over millennia. Peace, like conflict, violence, and war, assumes many forms at different times and in different contexts. For practical purposes, however, the major focus of this encyclopedia is similar to that of the comprehensive field of peace studies. This is an umbrella term centered on interdisciplinary approaches to the problems faced by the world in relation to violent conflict, and it comprises various solutions and peace proposals and methodologies. For the present project, “peace” thus encompasses all efforts to transform human conflict into a more creative, less violent process; to enhance nonviolent and cooperative relationships worldwide; to reduce or end organized acts of violence such as war; and even to abolish war and construct a culture of global peace and environmental balance based on these values.
The publication of this encyclopedia marks fifty years of peace research and academic publication in peace studies. The first professional journals and research institutes emerged in the later 1950s and were well established by the 1960s.
This evolution of a growing scholarly opus in the interdisciplinary academic field of peace studies reflects the depth and sophistication of the analysis of destructive conflict and of the policy-making aspects of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, such as, for example, reconstruction in post-conflict environments. This evolution of peace studies as a field has produced a wide range of institutes, university departments and programs, peace-related nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and think tanks.
By 2000 there was a clear need for a new, tightly focused reference work for a general audience in a field that has produced and trained, in increasing numbers, both peace specialists and practitioners—scholars and activists—devoted specifically to the problems of global militarization and violence. In this context a new etymology and vocabulary have developed which this encyclopedia and its more than 850 entries will serve to introduce, explain, and popularize. The explanation of terms such as “transnationalism,” “structural violence,” and “conflict transformation” is a key part of this project's mission—to write entries useful to college and high school students and to scholars seeking information, definitions, or ideas for research papers. An overview of recent scholarship is included. This encyclopedia complements several earlier reference works, including biographical dictionaries, that are discussed at greater length in entries such as that on encyclopedias. (For example, the Garland collection on war and peace  still stands as a key source of three hundred reprints of classic texts with useful introductions.) A selective bibliography at the end of each article directs the reader who wishes to pursue a topic in greater detail to primary sources and the most important scholarly works in English, including translations from other languages; some key non-English texts are also cited.
The encyclopedia includes a peace chronology, more than forty important peace documents, and a glossaries of key terms. While we are conscious in the compilation of the chronology that it is much harder to compile a chronology of peace than of war, we hope that it may serve as a useful guide to the ideas, events, and movements over several millennia of peace history. At the end of volume 4 there is a systematic topical outline (which shows how articles relate to one another and to the overall structure of the encyclopedia), a directory of contributors, and an index to all topics, including those that are not the main subjects of entries.
Many academic journals cover peace issues, and the peace movement itself has changed, both in presenting topics for research and documentation and by becoming more reflective and self-critical about its own activism and its results. Meanwhile, NGOs have multiplied and often have representatives in conflict areas. In journalism and religion, in education and law, there has been a growing parallel concern with conflict issues and their resolution. Our aim has been to create an up-to-date, well-documented, authoritative reference work—independent of outside political or religious links—that would serve all these constituencies.
The encyclopedia thus includes both “negative” entries (on preventing or ending war or violent conflict) and “positive” entries (on achieving a more cooperative, harmonious community). For example, case studies of the establishment of interethnic, ecumenical, or multicultural councils in areas where negative conflict is predicted and of monitoring and mediating disputes in order to prevent polarization and escalation of violence (as in the case of the civil wars in former Yugoslavia, which showed the limits of international intervention) are set alongside case studies like that of India, where Gandhi created coalitions across social, religious, and economic boundaries to communicate and sustain nonviolent alternatives. In both examples, reciprocal tension-reducing initiatives were part of a process of preempting violent conflict and building trust and cooperation, thus enabling constructive conflict to replace destructive conflict.
This encyclopedia aims for global, multicultural coverage, but its coverage would be largely Northern Hemispheric were it not for important contributions from the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand), and Western (Anglo-American and European) were it not for contributions from Japan, and now, increasingly significantly, also from India and the Philippines. In the former communist superpowers, Russia and China, however, despite lip-service to “world peace” by political leaders, peace research and studies have never taken root and hardly exist, except for the work of individual scholars. Africa and Latin America, lacking certain traditions, have only a few isolated centers. Later editions of this encyclopedia may show significant changes, but for now these regions are severely underrepresented in terms of contributors, documents, and in the chronology.