Peace Movements and Democratic Culture in Southern Europe during the 1970s and 1980s

The mobilisation against the deployment of US Pershing and Cruise Missile atomic warheads in the wake of the NATO Dual Track Solution in 1979 was a watershed moment in the recent political history of Western Europe.

The anti-nuclear protests of the late 1970s and 1980s activated civil society, renegotiated the parameters of political participation and redefined the understanding of (international and domestic) security.

The contours and implications of the 1980s anti-nuclear protests have been fairly well researched for key western European countries over the past decade. Developments in Southern Europe, however, have not yet been substantially studied.

The key objective of this conference is to bring together historians, political scientists, sociologists and academics from cultural and media studies who are conducting empirical research on anti-nuclear and anti-militarist peace protests in southern European countries during the late 1970s and 1980s.

The focus will be on Greece, Spain and Italy, three countries that were involved in the 1980s mobilisation cycle in different ways. Italy had been selected for the deployment of Pershing missiles and was thus a key battleground of conflicts over the Dual Track Decision. But the country had also seen a wave of left and right-wing terrorism during the 1970s and a concomitant crisis of parliamentary democracy. Spain and Greece had just returned to parliamentary democracy from military dictatorship in 1975 and 1974, respectively. They were not directly involved in the conflict over the Dual Track Decision, but experienced intensive protests against the presence of US military bases or against NATO membership more generally.

Thus, all three countries were involved in conflicts over security that entailed a complex renegotiation of democratic practices in the widest sense. The conference will investigate these developments through the lens of peace movement mobilisation. In addition to papers on Italy, Spain and Greece, suggestions for papers on peace movements in Portugal are also welcome.

The conference organisers invite the submission of abstracts for papers that relate to one of the themes which we will discuss in the five panels of the conference:

Panel I: Forging Coalitions: Movements, Parties and Institutional Actors

Which organisational and political resources could peace protesters use? How did socialist peace activists act in those cases in which their party was promoting an agenda for peace and in government at the same time?

Panel II: Practices and Cultures of Participation

Which semantic forms did peace activists use to connect peace and democracy? How did they aim to legitimise peaceful protest? To what extent were the peace protests gender-biased or gender-blind, and how did they include female activists?

Panel III: The Spatial Politics of Peace Movements

How did peace movement activists translate the global danger of nuclear annihilation into the living spaces of their immediate social environment? To what extent was “peace” conceived of as something that could be best achieved in a specific locality?

Panel IV: The Transnational Circulation of Ideas, Actors and Practices

What was the relevance of direct contacts between Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Greek movement activists? What was the interplay between a shared European vision of peace and patterns of national identity in the three respective countries?

Panel V: Framing Peace: Symbols, Rituals and Narratives

Peace movement mobilisation is based on complex and often fragile processes of framing, ie, the articulation of shared motivations for activism. The papers in this panel investigate how a diverse coalition of actors developed shared symbols, narratives and visions of peace.

The conference will be opened with a keynote lecture by Professor Federico Romero (European University Institute Florence). The conference proceedings will be held in English. In each panel, a commentator will point out conceptual implications and connections between the papers. Selected papers from the conference will be subsequently published in a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary History, subject to the peer-review procedures of this journal.

Call for papers (PDF, 63KB)


The conference has received funding from the Max Batley Legacy and from the Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung (DSF, German Foundation for Peace Research). The organisers aim to cover travel costs and accommodation for all speakers. A decision will be made upon acceptance of your paper.


The conference is organised by the German Historical Institute Rome (Professor Martin Baumeister) in collaboration with the Centre for Peace History at the Department of History, University of Sheffield (Professor Benjamin Ziemann)


14 - 16 February 2018


German Historical Institute Rome

Via Aurelia Antica, 391

Phone: +39 06 660492

Venue website