Collection in Focus: John W. Burton Papers

John Wear Burton was born in Australia and lived there from 1915-1963 when he moved to England and taught International Relations at University College, London. It was there that he created the original Centre for the Analysis of Conflict. He began his career at George Mason University in 1980 and created a new Center for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, now known as S-CAR, which was modeled on his original center.

Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) began receiving donated materials from John Burton in 1989 until 1995 giving us a total of 22 boxes. The collection was re-processed in 2012 and is divided up into series so researchers can more easily identify items that would be valuable for research. Some of the most valuable research materials can be found in series 2-5.

John Burton was a big advocate for finding solutions to causes of a problem, not just the problem. In an address given at the National Local Government Environmental Resource Network on March 30, 1995, he stated,

“The common ground problem faced by those of us in the field of conflict resolution is the same as the problem doctors face: treating the specific must be with an awareness of the whole…Prevention or resolving one conflict does not stop others occurring. Prevention, getting to the sources of problems, seeks to avoid conflict. It thus makes conflict resolution a political philosophy, a foundation for economic and social policies.” (“A Holistic Approach to Conflict Resolution”, John W. Burton Papers #C0006, Box 18, Folder 12, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries).

Other papers speak to specific issues that are still relevant today. Included below is a page from another talk, “The Refuge Problem: Getting to Sources” from 1996.

“The Refugee Problem: Getting to Sources.” John W. Burton Papers #C0006, Box 18, Folder 12, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

This collection, though donated 20 years ago, still holds a lot of relevance. It can be a great resource for researchers analyzing current issues in the field of peace studies or conflict analysis, or scholars interested in how certain problems were viewed during Burton’s years of study.

To learn more about the John W. Burton papers or other related collections, please contact or call 703-993-2220.

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