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


1910-1919 ‘The cruellest and most terrible war’

1910 Publication of ‘The Great Illusion’ by NORMAN ANGELL.

Ralph Norman Angell Lane, later SIR NORMAN ANGELL (1872-1967, Nobel Peace Prize 1933), was a journalist, writer and worker for peace. His book ‘The Great Illusion’ argued compellingly that war does not adequately solve international disputes. Military and political power, Angell said, don’t give a nation any commercial advantage, and it’s an economic impossibility for a nation to make itself rich by overpowering another; foreign policy should be changed to a policy of international co-operation and peace. In 1914 he co-founded the Union of Democratic Control, aiming for more public and parliamentary control of foreign policy. He went on lecture tours in America and worked with President Woodrow Wilson on setting up the League of Nations.
    He became an MP in 1929 and in the early 1930s published, among many other books, ‘The Intelligent Man’s Way to the Prevention of War’, and ‘Unseen Assassins’, an examination of the way politicians manipulate the public into supporting the policies of force and war. He was an officer of the World Committee against War and Fascism. He toured at home and abroad giving lectures on all these matters until he was ninety.

1913 Ceremony marking the building of the Peace Palace at The Hague, the Netherlands.

1914 Foundation of No Conscription Fellowship (1914-1919) in Britain, campaigning for the right to exemption from call-up on grounds of conscience. Membership reached over 10,000, mainly Quakers and Independent Labour Party members. The NCF issued many publications and, from 1916, a weekly journal called ‘The Tribunal’; it also provided support systems for imprisoned conscientious objectors.

1914 Assassination of French socialist leader JEAN JAURÉS because fanatics feared his pacifist views and work to prevent war in Europe would give imperial Germany freedom to expand.

JEAN JAURÉS (1859-1914) was a French socialist leader, politician, and academic. His commitment to reconciliation led him to break with the socialists who wanted class war, and equally led him and his followers to unite with them in one political party. By 1914 the majority of the left wing supported Jaurés’ ideas for democratic reform. In international affairs, he worked for systems that would ensure ‘peace through arbitration’ and ‘limitation of conflicts’, and vigorously opposed colonial expansion where conflict was bound to follow. He worked for co-operation between France and Germany; since Germany was traditionally an enemy, Jaurés was perceived by French nationalists as an enemy too. A few weeks after archduke Ferdinand’s assassination at Sarajevo, the event which triggered World War 1, Jaurés was also assassinated, on the very day he was devising an appeal to President Wilson of America for help in peacefully solving the crisis.

1914 The Fellowship of Reconciliation was founded in Britain. A Christian pacifist organisation, its founders agreed that as Christians ‘we are forbidden to wage war’.

1914 The International Women’s Suffrage Alliance presented a peace petition to the British government on behalf of 12 million women from 26 countries.

1914 The Friends Ambulance Unit was set up under the leadership of Philip Noel-Baker. It consisted of pacifists, both Quaker and non-Quaker. They worked in war zones both with civilians behind the lines and with the wounded at the front.


Britain: 16000 conscientious objectors faced tribunals. Some accepted places in the army’s Non Combatant Corps or Royal Army Medical Corps. Some were at first forced into the army, where they were harshly treated and faced court martials; 34 were condemned to death, though the sentences were not carried out. ‘Absolute’ pacifists, who refused to take part in the war in any way, were imprisoned in poor conditions. Over 70 died as a result; a number of survivors would later embark on post-war campaigns for prison reform. COs generally were abused and harassed, accused of cowardice, duty-shirking, or pro-German views.
America: Before America’s entry into the war, anti-war socialist party members were harassed, abused, and given long prison sentences. From 1917 nearly 21000 men who had claimed non-combatant classification were called up; but less than 4000 actually used their exemption certificates. Most COs ended up in army camps, where they were poorly treated. ‘Absolutists’ were imprisoned, with attempts made to break their will. 17 were sentenced to death; 142 were given life sentences, but were all released by 1920.
Canada: Religious COs received more tolerant treatment than their non-religious colleagues.
Australia & New Zealand: Compulsory military service had been in place since 1910. Those who refused were jailed. Exemption was available for some religious objectors, but all had to take non-combatant roles; refusers were jailed.
Russia: A few members of certain sects were allowed to work in forestry or in army hospitals. Other COs were jailed, though some were released in 1917 after the revolution; others, however, were held indefinitely, and a few executed.
Hungary: Members of the Nazarene sect were allowed to serve in the Medical Corps. All other pacifists were imprisoned, and some may have been executed.
Germany: Almost all pacifists were prepared to take non-combatant roles; the remainder were jailed.
France and Belgium: No provision for COs.
Italy: Only 3 known COs, all jailed.
Norway: Exemption for religious COs.
Denmark: Alternative civilian service offered to COs.
Netherlands: All COs were required to take non-combatant roles; refusers were fined or given short prison sentences.

1915 Bertrand Russell published his essay ‘War and Resistance’, urging nations to disarm and to resist invaders by practising non-co-operation.

1915 USA: Anti-Enlistment League founded, with 3500 members. American Fellowship of Reconciliation founded.

1915 International Congress of Women at The Hague, attended by 1500 delegates from North America and Europe. A system was discussed and approved for continuous mediation with nations at war. A delegation of 30 women toured European capitals on a well-publicised peace mission to meet government leaders and demand an end to the war. Many of the women’s peace proposals were incorporated into President Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’ for the League of Nations.

1918 Formation of the Quaker Council for International Service, with ‘embassies’ in London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna as bases for peace work. Later in the century offices would be set up to work with the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Brussels.

1919 International Fellowship of Reconciliation founded, with some countries extending membership to non-Christians committed to non-violent resolution of conflict. Both British and International Fellowships still exist.

1919 Foundation (as a direct result of the 1915 International Congress) of the Women’s International League For Peace And Freedom, whose first president was JANE ADDAMS, with EMILY GREENE BALCH as Secretary-General. Almost the first action of WILPF was to condemn the Treaty of Versailles, because it held the seeds of future conflict. Branches of WILPF, and its central office in Geneva, exist to this day.

JANE ADDAMS (1860-1935. Nobel Peace Prize 1931) was an American pioneer social worker, feminist and internationalist. Her book, ‘Newer Ideals Of Peace’, was published in 1905. As Carnegie lecturer in 1913-14, she spoke against America’s entry into the war in Europe. In consequence she was attacked in the press. In 1915 she was chairman of the Women’s Peace Party and President of the International Women’s Congress. During the war she worked to provide food supplies to women and children of enemy nations; she described this work in her book ‘Peace and Bread in Time of War’.

EMILY GREENE BALCH (1867-1961, Nobel Peace Prize 1946) was an American Quaker sociologist and economist. She too opposed American entry into the war, and lost her professorship because of it.
Both these women took part in the 1915 world-wide peace mission. Emily Greene Balch reported: ‘We were received gravely, kindly, gladly, by twenty-one ministers, the presidents of two republics, a king, and the Pope. All apparently recognised without argument that an expression of the public opinion of a large body of women had every claim to consideration in questions of war and peace.’





President Woodrow Wilson of America (1856-1924. Nobel Peace Prize 1919. Founder of the League of Nations) ‘Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.’

Norman Angell (1872-1967. British journalist): ‘You cannot kill ideas with bullets.’

Alfred Salter (1873-1945. Christian pacifist and socialist): ‘Christ in khaki, out in France thrusting His bayonet into the body of a German workman...The Man of Sorrows in a cavalry charge, cutting, hacking, thrusting, crushing, cheering. No! That picture is an impossible one, and we all know it.’  [memorial]  [more]

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970. Philosopher and mathematician): ‘...the invincible power of that better way of passive resistance, which pacifists believe to be stronger than all the armies and navies in the world.’ From an article ‘What the conscientious objector had achieved’, 1919: ‘The absolutists have won in the contest of endurance: they have shown that the will to resistance is stronger than the community’s will to persecution.’   [memorial]

David Lloyd George (1863-1945, British Prime Minister): 11/11/1918: ‘At eleven o’clock this morning came to an end the cruellest and most terrible War that has ever scourged mankind. I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars.’

Emily Greene Balch (1867-1961. American sociologist): ‘Never again must women dare to believe that they are without responsibility because they are without power. Public opinion is power; strong and reasonable feeling is power; determination which is twin sister of faith or vision, is power.’




  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10


  P E A C E  P L E D G E  U N I O N  1 Peace Passage London N7 0BT, Britain.
  phone  +44 (0)20 7424 9444  fax: +44 (0)20 7482 6390     CONTACT US