The number of scholarly works explicitly devoted to peacemaking has been relatively small as compared to studies of war and its causes, but there is now a substantial literature available to scholars and practitioners. Until about 1985, almost all of the scholarly studies devoted to peacemaking limited their concern to peace settlements, particularly settlements of interstate wars by explicit agreement. Since that time, the focus has shifted to related topics such as conflict resolution and prevention, preventive and multitrack diplomacy, humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. In addition, a large body of work has emerged that examines or applies these concepts in regard to specific conflict areas in various parts of the world.
There have been many works on specific peace settlements, such as Richard B. Morris's The Peacemakers (1965), dealing with the negotiation of the settlement of the American Revolution, and Harold Nicolson's Peacemaking 1919 (1965) as well as Arno J. Mayer's Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking, 1918–1919 (1967), dealing with the settlement reached at the end of World War I. Robert Randle, in The Origins of Peace: A Study of Peacemaking and the Structure of Peace Settlements (1973), broadened the scope to a wider range of examples, but made clear in the preface: "Although I have dealt with a number of aspects of peacemaking, I have concentrated mainly upon the structure and content of peace settlements." In a later work, while recognizing that peacemaking studies embrace "all matters relating to the transition from a state of war to a state of peace," including "an analysis of the conditions prompting the parties to move toward peace," Randle still placed central emphasis upon settlements by explicit agreement. Thus, in Randle's summation, peacemaking studies include, first, study of the peace negotiations; second, "an analysis of the form, content and meaning of the peace settlement"; and third, "a study of the impact of the war and its settlement, including consideration of any postwar negotiations aimed at completing, amending or improving the settlement, a history of the implementation of its terms, and its value as precedent for the management or resolution of future disputes."
This focus on agreed peace settlements was consistent with the position, then generally accepted in the field of international law, that "The most frequent mode of terminating a war … is a treaty of peace, negotiated either while operations continue or after the conclusion of a general armistice." This was true of wars between recognized members of the international system in the period prior to World War II, but since 1945 fewer peace treaties have been concluded, and truce or cease-fire agreements have "tended in some respects to move forward to the place of the old treaty of peace."
For a general understanding of peacemaking, however, it must be recognized that a great many wars, or large-scale hostilities, ended without any agreed settlement—for example, by out-right conquest, annexation, or military rule of foreign territory, by suppression of insurrectionary forces, or by overthrow of an existing regime and its replacement by a new government. The number of armed conflicts ending with any kind of agreement diminished significantly over the last half of the twentieth century, and many were transformed into long-term protracted conflicts. Of ninety post–Cold War conflicts in the years 1989–1993, only forty-one were terminated in that period, the rest remaining active years later. Of the forty-one, only six ended with a peace accord, the others ending either with a clear-cut victory by one side (seventeen), some form of cease-fire or truce without a peace settlement, or various patterns of decline in armed hostilities.
Study of the causes of war has engendered a vast literature since at least the monumental work of Quincy Wright, A Study of War, first published in 1942. Analysis of peacemaking, or "the causes of peace," is a more recent project that presents difficulties even greater than analysis of the causes of war. While the latter has received much more attention, there is no consensus among scholars on the solution of either problem. With respect to the causes of making peace, however, debate has centered upon the relative importance of selected events, conditions, or policies in inducing the parties to make peace. Battle victories, war costs, "unconditional surrender" policies, misperception, coalition diplomacy, secrecy, the role of mediators, and domestic politics are among the factors often treated as primary to the process of ending or prolonging hostilities. In reality, all these and other factors enter into the calculations of belligerents weighing the prospects for peace, and it is unlikely that any simple formula could lead us to predict which would be "decisive" in any given case.
As the decade of the 1960s drew to a close, special issues of the Journal of Peace Research (December 1969) and of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (November 1970) were devoted to the topic "How Wars End," providing illuminating early analyses of war termination. Robert F. Randle's The Origins of Peace (1973) was followed by David Smith's From War to Peace: Essays in Peacemaking and War Termination (1974). In subsequent years, the number of works addressing peacemaking grew rapidly and expanded the information base, the scope, and the analytical complexity of knowledge and theory on the subject. Nevertheless, peacemaking remains a relatively neglected area of study as compared with warmaking.