The Center for Research on Conflict Resolution was an interdisciplinary institution that supported social science research in the field of conflict resolution or "peace research." It was founded in 1959 and closed in 1971. The idea for such a center grew out of The Journal of Conflict Resolution, whose editorial offices resided at the University of Michigan. The Journal was founded in 1957. Its inaugural editorial argued for a new emphasis on social science research on conflict resolution. "(T)he most important practical problem facing the human race today," the editorial contended,"...is the prevention of global war." To make intellectual progress towards solving this problem, "the study of international relations must be made an interdisciplinary enterprise, drawing its discourse from all the social sciences...." In fulfillment of this proscription, the Journal's editorial board included scholars from many disciplines, most notably Robert Angell from sociology, Kenneth Boulding from economics, and Irwin Katz from psychology.
The year following the establishment of the Journal, these same scholars began discussing the establishment of an interdisciplinary center to pursue the same objective as the Journal. Interdisciplinary study was well regarded in this period, and the university had already established several interdisciplinary centers, such as the Center for Japanese Studies. After months of discussion and searching for funding, the University of Michigan Regents established the Center for Research on Conflict Resolution in June 1959. The establishment was partially funded by an anonymous donation of $65,000. The original faculty of the center included Angell, Boulding, Katz, and Robert Hefner from the psychology department. The Regents appointed William Barth, a professor of adult education who had served as an editor of the Journal, as executive secretary of the new center.
During the 1960s, the center supported research, published books, organized conferences, and convened symposia where researchers presented their findings and exchanged ideas. It also participated in several large research projects, including the university's Detroit Area Study and a collaborative project on race relations with Tuskegee University.
Despite these activities, the center's future was cloudy by the late 1960s. In a 1968 Michigan Daily article, student reporter Frank Browing enumerated the center's problems: it had difficulty raising funds, its administration was often half-hearted because its staff and faculty had commitments to departments, and its lack of strong ties to a powerful department left it with very little influence within the university. These problems culminated in July 1971, when the dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts recommended that the center be closed. The recommendation cited the departure or retirement of influential faculty, the center's inability to attract private donations, and university-wide budget cutbacks as reasons for closing the center. Robert Hefner, the director of the center, disputed these claims, and suggested that the center's political activism was the true reason for the center's closing. Hefner was most likely referring to the center's involvement with Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Action Movement in the late 1960s and 1970. Despite the protests of some faculty and students, the center was closed in August 1971.