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Scholars shed light on humanity's dark side

11 Nov 2009

The Director of a groundbreaking project dedicated to recording acts of mass violence is to speak about his work at The University of Manchester on Thursday afternoon.

Professor Jacques Semelin
Professor Jacques Semelin

Professor Jacques Sémelin, an internationally renowned expert on genocide based at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, leads a team dedicated to producing a reliable record of both well-documented and little remembered 20th century massacres.

Since its inception, The Encyclopaedia of Mass Violence website has published dozens of peer reviewed articles detailing some of humanity's darkest episodes.

The site is freely available to the public and aims to bolster efforts in different parts of the world to reduce the threat of future disasters by learning from the past.

Entries include notorious acts of violence in the Ottoman Empire, Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, as well as the genocides of Rwanda and Kampuchea.

Less well known examples including the horrors endured by the people of Chad, Poland and Tasmania.

The website, www.massviolence.org, took four years to construct, and aims to be the world's only comprehensive database of its kind.

Submissions come from a range of sources including historians, demographers, sociologists, anthropologists, and NGO staff, but are subject to the same academic criteria.

Articles are in French and  English, but will also be translated into the languages of the countries where the massacres happened.

Holocaust historian Dr Jean Marc Dreyfus, from The University of Manchester, is on the project steering committee and organised Professor Sémelin's visit to Manchester.

He said: “The knowledge produced by this team of scholars is essential to understanding what  - if anything - is common to these appalling acts of extreme violence which have blighted the 20th century.

“If we are to build peace then we need an understanding of the legacy of these acts. We need to investigate the darker side of peace.

“The site is going from strength to strength and has already been visited by thousands of people from 200 countries.

“It is valuable not only to scholars, but also to the NGO community, international legal experts, policy makers and journalists.'

He added: “Today's scholars have a responsibility to initiate and build on this important work.

“The sight is impartial and does not ally itself to any political or ideological purposes, just scholarship.

“Professor Sémelin has made one of the most important contributions to the study of genocide, so we’re privileged to hear him speak.”

Notes for editors

Professor Sémelin and Dr Dreyfus are available for comment.

Images are available

For media enquiries contact:

Mike Addelman
Media Relations
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567
michael.addelman@manchester.ac.uk