War, peace, and a geographical internationalism : The 1871 Antwerp International Geographical Congress

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This paper aims to contribute to the emerging field of the geographies of conferences by discussing the multiple meanings of the first International Geographical Congress held in Antwerp in 1871. While it has generally been said that the agenda of the Antwerp congress was largely in harmony with the rise of colonialism and expansionism, my attention here is paid mainly to the peace aspect of the congress after the termination of the Franco-Prussian War. The Antwerp congress was intended to function as a peace-oriented international assembly of geographers and related scholars, though it was postponed for one year because of the outbreak of the war. One of the most important European port cities, Antwerp was located on the northern fringe of Belgium, a neutral country during the war. The congress was organized mainly by Belgian scholars, the leader of whom was Charles Ruelens, a broad-minded intellectual whose concerns included geography. Some members of the Société de Géographie in Paris were also actively engaged in the overall management of the congress. British and French delegates celebrated the congress as a festival of peace and friendship, although underlying social and political tensions overshadowed the apparent success of the congress. In addition, almost all of the congress participants came from European countries. Therefore, peace as imagined by the congress attendees was not of a global nature, but a geographically limited one.


  • Geographical Reports of Tokyo Metropolitan University

    Geographical Reports of Tokyo Metropolitan University (50), 97-105, 2015

    Department of Geography, Tokyo Metropolitan University


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