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Children and the Aftermath of War

Mark Mazower investigates what happens to children in the aftermath of war and conflict.

What happens when wars end? Historians have written endlessly on wars' origins, far less on their aftermath. We seem happy to explode myths and deconstruct images, yet strangely indifferent to the very real social and psychological problems that wars leave behind them. As the conflict in Bosnia gives way to an uneasy peace, the question of how people rebuild their lives and communities assumes new urgency. Have historians nothing to contribute here? Fifty years ago, as in Bosnia now, the ending of war left society confronting bitter conflicts over property, issues of violence and justice, separation and loss. A conference at the University of Sussex this July, After the War was Over, will bring together historians, anthropologists, psychiatrists and lawyers, as well as former partisans, journalists and relief workers, to discuss these issues.

Among the topics we will address is the impact of war on children. UNICEF estimates that more than half the children in Sarajevo were shot at during the war, while in Mostar nearly three-quarters had their homes attacked and over half had a parent wounded or killed. Half a century ago, during the last great European civil war – in Greece between 1946 and 1949 – children were also among the main victims. Many had suffered bereavement during the Nazi Occupation. Their plight increased as fighting between the government and the Left flared up in 1946.

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