A decade-by-decade look at some people and events in the world-wide struggle against war and violence.


 Selected by Margaret Melicharova

  peace action worldwide

KEIR HARDIE speaking in Trafalgar Sq London



1901 The FIRST NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, to be awarded to ‘those who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses’, was shared between JEAN HENRI DUNANT (1828-1916), founder of the International Red Cross, and FRÉDÉRIC PASSY. The Peace Prize was to arouse controversy throughout the century.

FRÉDÉRIC PASSY (1822-1912) was a French economist and politician, whose aim was international peace. He believed that free trade would draw nations together in a common enterprise, which would lead to disarmament and the abandonment of war. He founded the first French Peace Society in 1867, the year in which he helped to prevent a war between France and Prussia; in 1889 he reorganised it as the Societé Française pour l’Arbitrage entre Nations (French Society for Arbitration between Nations). Passy was inspired by UK politician WILLIAM RANDAL CREMER (1828-1908, Nobel Peace Prize 1903), who had achieved an Anglo-American agreement to arbitrate any dispute that diplomacy failed to settle. In 1888 Cremer and Passy helped to establish the Interparliamentary Union, at which political representatives from Europe and America met to discuss ideas, problems, and legislation leading to peace. The Union still exists.

1900-2 The Boer War in South Africa was strongly opposed by KEIR HARDIE and the Independent Labour Party.

KEIR HARDIE (1856-1915) was a British labour leader, first to represent working men in Parliament as an Independent (1892) and first to lead the Labour Party in the House of Commons (1906). The Independent Labour Party, of which he was a founder, incorporated pacifist principles in its policy. A dedicated socialist, Hardie was also an outspoken pacifist. He worked hard to persuade workers world-wide to strike rather than go to war.

1902 An International Museum of War and Peace was opened in Lucerne, Switzerland.

1904 The first International Congress of Antimilitarists was held in the Netherlands.

1907 At the SECOND HAGUE INTERNATIONAL PEACE CONFERENCE, called by Tsar Nicholas of Russia, the value of international arbitration was unanimously agreed. The two Hague Conferences influenced the later creation of the League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

1908 The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to KLAS ARNOLDSON.

KLAS ARNOLDSON (1844-1916) was a Swedish politician and dedicated pacifist, who supported the military neutrality of Nordic countries. In 1883 he helped to found the Swedish Association for Peace and Conciliation. From 1890, when conflict between Norway and Sweden was critical (Norway had been annexed by Sweden in 1814) he used all his powers, including a gift for inspiring oratory, to move public opinion in both countries in favour of a peaceful settlement. In 1905 the mutually agreed ending of the Union of Norway and Sweden was achieved.

1908 Foundation in Britain of the National Peace Council, to coordinate peace groups throughout the country.

Throughout the decade – and the century – the INTERNATIONAL PEACE BUREAU (founded in 1892 and set up in Bern, Switzerland) worked to promote the development of international law, disarmament, and the peaceful settlement of conflicts. It was felt that the peace movement needed a permanent office to coordinate the activities of the national associations and to organise the annual Universal Peace Congresses. In the decade 1900-1909 alone, three of the Bureau’s administrators received Nobel Peace Prizes (ELIE DUCOMMUN and CHARLES GOBAT of Switzerland in 1902, FREDRIK BAJER of Denmark in 1908), and the IPB itself was awarded the prize in 1910. Another Nobel laureate (1905) associated with the IPB was the Austrian writer BERTHA VON SUTTNER, who was a friend of Alfred Nobel and had encouraged him to establish the Peace Prize; she was instrumental with IPB associates in persuading Russia to set up the Hague Conferences. The International Peace Bureau still exists, with ten more of its officers receiving Nobel Peace Prizes between 1910 and 1982. and 1982.





Bertha von Suttner: ‘The representatives of pacifism are aware of the insignificance of their personal influence on power... But even though they think of them-selves modestly, they do not think modestly of the cause they serve. They see it as the greatest that can ever be served.’

Frédéric Passy: (unhappy about the awarding of the 1904 Nobel Peace Prize to the Institute of International Law in Ghent, Belgium, for its studies of national neutrality) ‘What war has it prevented? What congresses has it organised? What disar-mament has it brought about?’

Leo Nicolayevich Tolstoy: ‘The more I think about the problem of war, the more convinced I become that this problem can only be solved if people refuse to be soldiers. As long as every man declares himself prepared to kill those people his leader commands him to, there will be war, and it will be even more horrible than it is today.

President Theodore Roosevelt of America (1858-1919, Nobel Peace Prize 1906):’Believe me, world peace will come because it has to come, but it will come step by step.’




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