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Adam Curle (4 July 1916 – 28 September 2006) was a British academic and Quaker peace activist. His full name was Charles Thomas William Curle; he was known as "Adam" after the town where he was born, L'Isle-Adam, north of Paris.[1]


Curle's father was Richard Curle, a journalist and writer and friend of Joseph Conrad. His mother was Cordelia Fisher. One of her sisters, Adeline, married the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was also related to the historian Frederic William Maitland, the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, Virginia Woolf and the artist Vanessa Bell.[1]

Curle attended Charterhouse School and subsequently studied anthropology at New College, Oxford.[2] He married Pamela Hobson in 1939 and the couple had two daughters, Christina and Anna. Curle and Hobson divorced some years later.[1]


Curle served in the British Army during World War II, rose to the rank of Major, and towards the end of his time in the service, he became more closely acquainted with the psychological traumas of conflict working with prisoners of war in the Civil Resettlement Unit. Between 1947-1950, Curle worked at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London.[1] He subsequently became an academic, working as a lecturer in social psychology at the University of Oxford and then, from 1952 onwards, as professor of education and psychology at the then University College of the South-West of England, which shortly thereafter became the University of Exeter. In the later 1950s he travelled extensively, and during this period while advising the Pakistan Planning Commission on Social Affairs, Curle met a New Zealand community health worker in East Pakistan, Anne Edie, who became his second wife, with whom he had a third daughter, Deborah. With Anne, Adam joined the Quakers while serving as a professor of education at the University of Ghana.[1] In 1962 he set up the Harvard Center for Studies in Education and Development at Harvard University, and he travelled widely, including Nigeria, Tunisia, Central America and Barbados. Between 1967-1970 he mediated in the Nigerian Civil War and also in the Pakistan-Indian War. In 1973 Curle was chosen as the first professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, England. After retirement from university in 1978, under Quaker auspices, Curle's "tools for transformation" (including mediation, problem-solving, negotiation, policy analysis, advocacy and nonviolent activism) were put to work in conflict states such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and the Balkans. He helped set up the Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights, an NGO based in Osijek, Croatia during the Croatian War of 1991-1995. He did much to establish peace studies as an academic discipline. In 2000 he was the recipient of the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award.[2]

Besides Quakerism, Adam Curle had an interest in Tibetan Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama.

In 1981 Curle wrote, "I am as much concerned with the human condition in general as with specific conflicts, which often represent only the tip of a pyramid of violence and anguish...I am concerned with all the pain and confusion that impede our unfolding and fulfilment....In this sense the social worker, the teacher, the wise legislator, or the good neighbour is just as much a peacemaker as the woman or man unravelling some lethal international imbroglio." (Quaker Faith and Practice 24.35).


He died on Thursday 28 September 2006 in London. He had been ill for about a week with a very virulent leukaemia.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Tom Woodhouse (2006-10-04). "Obituary: Adam Curle". The Guardian.,,1886913,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Adam Curle". London: The Times. 2006-10-03. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 

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