The first continental congresses of the "Friends of Peace" were held in 1848 (Brussels) and 1849 (Paris). A heterogeneous bourgeois audience convened to discuss the abolition of war and standing armies, unearthing a long pedigree of perpetual peace plans, linking them up with the changing nature of national sovereignty and general concerns for societal reform. The professionalisation of international law, or its establishment as a discipline taught by experts, was preceded by scathing criticism from civil society against the traditional diplomatic and military elites, who monopolised the exercise of force. In spite of the Peace Conferences' failure to alter international order through transnational public opinion, discussions stretching from the 1840s to the late 1860s provide insight into the role of legal arguments in political activism. This paper gives an overview of the personal networks and intellectual inspirations converging at these meetings, situated in the immediate "pre-history" of the Gentle Civilizer of Nations (Koskenniemi, 2001).
More information here.