By Andrea Lynn Like the folk singers of the '60s, UI historian Paul Schroeder believes the times are "a-changin'." The difference is that Schroeder believes the changes - in the realm of international politics, anyway - are for the better. Even when you consider Bosnia and Rwanda. Schroeder, an authority on the history of European international politics, argued his case - that the world really is a kinder, gentler place, and that it has been moving in that direction since the middle of the 17th century - to a large and attentive audience at his Jubilee Lecture on April 18 in the Levis Faculty Center. His talk was titled, "Does the History of International Politics Go Anywhere?" Schroeder said his method in determining the answer to that question was rather like the one used by detective Joe Friday on TV's "Dragnet" to focus on just "the facts." More than 20 years of sifting through the facts of international politics has led Schroeder to several bold and unconventional conclusions about his field and the course of history. He believes, for example, that international politics is not a weak current - superficial "event" history - but rather, a driving force of history, similar to the history of "every other great collective human enterprise." "We can see where it has gone in the past, and thereby gain a better idea of where it is going now and can go in the future," Schroeder said. "These insights can give us a measure of hope and power with which to face the future." He also believes that international politics has "gradually and persistently" evolved and developed, and that international politics was radically transformed between 1763 and 1848, from an 18th-century practice based on conflict and competitiveness, to a 19th-century practice based on rights and obligations. The turning point, he argued, was the Vienna Settlement, negotiated between 1813 and 1815, following the Napoleonic wars. Thus, instead of seeing international politics as an essentially unchanging cyclical power struggle, as generations of historians have argued, Schroeder sees it as an ongoing "quest for a viable principle of international order." In addition, the historian believes that another transformation of international politics is under way. Schroeder, a professor of history and of political science, was named a Jubilee Professor by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1992, in recognition of his outstanding teaching and research in the liberals arts. He is the author of more than 40 articles and four books, the most recent of which is the 894-page "The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848," published in April by Oxford University Press. Conclusions from the book, regarded as a "magisterial study," formed the basis for Schroeder's talk. In support of his claim that international politics is becoming more humane, Schroeder compared the political practices of the 18th and 19th centuries. The longest period of general peace in the 18th century was seven years; in the 19th century, it was 38, he said. Schroeder also said that the ratio of 18th-century battlefield deaths in European wars, adjusted for population growth, was roughly seven times higher than in the 19th century. In the arena of arms races, the 18th century "was never without them, on land and sea, in every region," Schroeder said, whereas after 1815, "there was almost no European arms competition at all for four decades." "I could go on indefinitely discussing the profound changes in the rules, spirit, institutions and practices of international politics after 1815: no more wars of dynastic successions, the most frequent, dangerous and unavoidable wars of the 17th and 18th centuries; no more alliances for aggrandizement, but instead alliances of restraint and management; a Concert of Europe that really works; conferences that really meet when called and deal with the problems they are called for; no more European wars over overseas trade and colonies, or even serious dangers of such wars, common and unavoidable in the 17th and 18th centuries and reviving again in the late 19th and the 20th." The process toward international order that began 200 years ago is still with us, Schroeder said. "We are reaping now the fruits of seeds of change in the international system sown decades and even centuries ago," he said, noting that contemporary society owes much to the 19th-century statesmen who struggled to develop a system of international politics that makes it possible to combine national independence with general international peace and stability. "We would not be enjoying these boons without this system, just as we could not enjoy our domestic freedoms without our domestic political system, and we will not keep them long if we fail to preserve and develop it." Looking at recent times, Schroeder observed that gradual progress from 1945 to 1985 climaxed with "the revolutionary events of 1985 to 1990 in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and South Africa, coming on top of other rapid developments over recent decades in East Asia, the Pacific Rim, much of Central and South America, and the Mediterranean basin." "We have seen," he said, "one authoritarian, repressive regime after another come to terms with the primacy of economics over power politics; seen them face up to the declining utility of the military force that they still commanded, as a means either to secure their position in the world, or enforce old policies and solve old problems at home; and watched them react by changing their domestic policies and systems, and even by surrendering power. "Regardless of what may happen in the future, this shows that old historic patterns and rules in international politics no longer hold." However, Schroeder cautioned that international politics "still involves acute problems and dangers, and always will. Force and power will always be elements in it. There are no grounds for euphoria or Utopianism." Still, Schroeder contends that there are "encouraging and empowering" implications for some of his findings, namely, that progress in international politics is "possible and real." "Peoples and states can learn from experience in this realm, and do." He suggested that war - at least general, systemic war, including nuclear war - is "not inevitable, not built into the system." "In fact, the problem of general systemic war may already be solved, belong to the past," he said, noting that in worrying about the return of the old competitive balance-of-power international system and its dangers, "we may be worrying about the wrong things." "The problems we know about and wrestle with now may be soluble or manageable by the methods we already know, if we are diligent and careful; the problems we see emerging on the horizon, or lurking below it, will probably not be solved by current methods and ideas, but will demand new learning and new effort. "Thus, there are really two answers to the question, "Does the history of international politics go anywhere?" The answer I can give as a historian is confident and categorical: 'Yes, it does. It always has. It still can.' The answer to the same question, posed as an ordinary citizen looking toward the future, must be less confident, but more urgent: 'Yes, it must.'"