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COLLOQUE ANNULÉ | Private Wars: legitimacy, finance and the social contract



20 Mar.   |   21 Mar.


Private Wars: Legitimacy, Finance and the Social Contract

A conference on the public/private boundary in warfare

The increasing use of private military contractors is proving a controversial feature of twenty-first century war. In Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, contractors have played significant and varied roles supporting, supplementing and sometimes replacing regular troops. Other deployments blur the distinction between private and public: supranational peacekeeping and humanitarian organisations not only employ private contractors, but the growth of such missions increasingly relies on hired regular troops from the global south. In both war-fighting and peace-keeping, then, the boundaries between the public and the private appear increasingly blurred in the twenty-first century.
The outsourcing of much military labour – to the private sector, and to other publics – has a long-standing historical basis that raises serious questions about the relationship between war, the state and society. Yet, were the boundaries between public and private ever clear? If the global wars of the twentieth century were ‘total’ for some belligerents, what of the millions who served for other kings, other countries and other empires prior to the emergence of the nation state? While much military history and military sociology has been written in national frames, did these frames ever adequately explain the nature of war? What of the private and supranational armies who played such important roles in the making of the modern world?
This conference addresses these questions through a critical historical analysis of the varied role(s) of the public and the private in warfare.



Sciences Po et Service historique de la Défense

Sciences Po :
The team at Sciences Po is led by Professor Guillaume Piketty and includes:
- Camille Mahé (Center for History at Sciences Po / CHSP)
- Paul Lenormand (SHD-CHSP)
- Géraud Létang (SHD-CHSP)
- Matteo Bendati (Sciences Po, Reims campus)
- Maya Lameche (Sciences Po, Reims campus)


• Hervé Drévillon (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne – Service historique de la Défense): “The private analogy and the theory of war in the 19th century”.
• David Edgerton (King’s College London): “How British Historians Nationalized the British Experience of the Second World War, 1945-2000”.
• Beatrice Heuser (Glasgow University): “What the past tells us about future war”.