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



While wars are headline news, the forces that create them or the means of preventing them are rarely aired; armed force thus, in most people’s minds, remains the only apparently viable option.
    This is an evolving project; it aims to foreground the nonviolent options and possibilities that have been suggested over the years and about which too little is known.

AS LONG AS there have been wars, there have been people who resist them. Pacifist doctrines can be found in religions, philosophies, and great writings world-wide. Many of history's pacifists have been religious people. Many have been intent on changing the world's societies for the better. Many have come to pacifism because they are driven by basic humanitarian concerns. All have found their own ways of taking a courageous and often lonely stand against governments, military leaders, and majority public opinion. All of them speak up for peaceful and non-violent responses to conflict and dispute.
    In the 16th century, branches of the Christian church who supported pacifist views and the practice of non-resistance grew and developed in Europe. In the 17th century the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), was founded, with pacifist commitment at the heart of their creed. Many Quakers carried their dream of a 'peaceable kingdom' to the new world of America. The state of Pennsylvania was founded by a Quaker with this ideal in mind.
    For many people, whether or not they are religious, pacifism is a sound political ideal. After the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century, peace groups began to spring up, whose members argued that war was barbaric and created more problems than it ever appeared to solve. They took a global view, focusing on arbitration and arbitration treaties, on establishment of an international congress, on the codification of international law, and on world-wide disarmament. Such people, precursors of the 20th century's active political pacifists, had high hopes of the first Hague International Peace Conference set up by Russia in 1899.


The Peace Pledge Union does not necessarily subscribe to the views of the movements, organisations or individuals mentioned in 100 years of peace action.


     Also from Russia came the writings of the great novelist Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910), who advocated 'non-resistance' - the 'turning of the other cheek' taught by Jesus - and the abolition of militarism in all societies. These views were to inspire many 20th century pacifists across the world.
    In the 20th century the ways in which war could be waged grew more sophisticated, brutal, large-scale and deadly; and the victims of war were increasingly the civilian populations. War, once unleashed, has proved hard to restrain. The idea that war is the only way to deal with national and international disputes has proved hard to overcome. So 20th century pacifists had an even greater need of brave voices. And they found them.




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