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In the Atomic Age
the permanent political unification of mankind
on a literally world-wide scale
is evidently the only alternative that we have
to the infliction on ourselves of a catastrophe
of unprecedented and immeasurable dimensions.
All past attempts at establishing world peace
are therefore of topical interest for us today.
Arnold Toynbee, 1963

In 1851 Victor Hugo addressed the Peace Congress in Paris and prophesied that universal peace is inevitable when the nations are linked together by the Gospel that substitutes mediation for war. He proclaimed that the law of God is not war, but peace. He noted that before France was united, local regions fought each other often, and he predicted that the ballot box would unite the nations as well. The great novelist spoke prophetically when he said,

A day will come when there will be no more battlefields,
but markets opening to commerce and minds opening to ideas.
A day will come when the bullets and bombs
are replaced by votes, by universal suffrage,
by the venerable arbitration of a great supreme senate
which will be to Europe what Parliament is to England,
the Diet to Germany, and the Legislative Assembly to France.
A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece,
as instruments of torture are today.
And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!
A day will come when we shall see those two immense groups,
the United States of America and the United States of Europe,
stretching out their hands across the sea,
exchanging their products, their arts, their works of genius,
clearing up the globe, making deserts fruitful,
ameliorating creation under the eyes of the Creator,
and joining together to reap the well-being of all.

This speech and his public opposition to the oppression of the poor provoked Napoleon III into exiling Hugo. The next year Hugo wrote that one can resist the invasion of armies but not the power of ideas whose time has come.

What the world needs now more than ever is guidance for establishing lasting peace with justice. The enormous military expenditures of the Cold War were only reduced substantially in the former Soviet states, and in recent years United States President George W. Bush has promoted large increases in military spending and war activities. The threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) between two superpowers has given way to more likely dangers of nuclear weapons being used by terrorists and nations fighting each other. In spite of the Cold War ending, the problems of war and peace have increased, and enough weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical) exist to threaten not only millions of people but could even bring about the extinction of the human species. Much has been written about these problems of nuclear weapons, military intervention, economic burdens, and terrorism; but still only a few voices in the wilderness are crying out for the moral imperatives of disarmament, world justice through effective international law, and federal democracy for the whole world. Ultimately we must discover and use nonviolence in applying these deeper and more enduring solutions. Understanding permanent solutions to our dangerous dilemma gives an invaluable perspective and encouragement toward facing this horrendous situation.

The philosophy of peacemaking has been evolving through the centuries and can be found in all the great cultures of the world. Guides to peace and justice have practiced and taught humans how we can live and work together for the safety and good of all. Ancient sages and founders of religions, such as Lao-zi, Confucius, Mahavira, Buddha, Pythagoras, Jesus, Nanak, and Baha'u'llah have given humanity profound ideas. Their messages have been carried by peacemakers such as Mo-zi, Mencius, early Christians, Sufis, Francesco of Assisi, Chaucer, Erasmus, George Fox, and many others. Principles of justice through international law have been taught by Dante, Vitoria, Crucé, Grotius, Wolff, Vattel, Penn, Rousseau, Bentham, Kant, and Emerson. Methods of nonviolent action for social transformation have been passed directly from Thoreau to Tolstoy to Gandhi to Martin Luther King and a growing peace movement throughout the world.

During the twentieth century when more than a hundred million people died in wars, evolving experiments with limited world government were attempted in the League of Nations and the United Nations; but recent proposals for more effective world law and disarmament, such as the Clark-Sohn plan, have not yet been implemented. Great philosophers and pacifists such as Einstein, Schweitzer, Russell, and Muste have protested nuclear weapons and called for democratic international organization for peace with justice. The useless tragedy of the Vietnam War stimulated the first peace movement that was able to stop a major war. Women demonstrated the persistence of a nonviolent movement in gaining the vote. The modern feminist movement has increased people's awareness of the role of women in bringing balance and peace to society. In the 1980s a movement opposed to nuclear technology and military intervention grew and continues its quest for a nonviolent and nuclear-free world. Yet the dependence on polluting fossil fuels and conflict over them and precious fresh water threaten devastating wars and will continue to do so until humanity learns to solve its resource needs peacefully.

The History of Peace is the story of the philosophical insights into the psychological, social, political, and economic factors of war and peace, the root causes of war, and the practical methods for transforming our society into a peaceful and just world.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

Guides to Peace and Justice from Ancient Sages to the Suffragettes is published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Chronology of Peacemaking
Prophets of Israel
Chinese Sages
Upanishads and Yoga
Mahavira and Buddha
Greek Philosophers and Aristophanes
Stoic Philosophers
Jesus and the Early Christians
Zarathushtra, Mani, and the Cathars
Sufis, Philosophers, and Nanak
Francesco and Bonaventure
Dante, Marsilius, and Petrarch
Magna Carta to Wyclif
Erasmus, Anabaptists, and Mennonites
International Law Pioneers
Quakers: Fox and Penn's Holy Experiment
Peace Plans of Rousseau, Bentham, and Kant
Abolitionists, Emerson, and Thoreau
Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá on World Peace
Tolstoy on the Law of Love
Suffragettes and Women's Rights
Gandhi's Nonviolent Revolution
Wilson and the League of Nations
United Nations and Human Rights
United Nations Peacekeeping
Einstein and Schweitzer on Peace in the Atomic Age
Pacifism of Bertrand Russell and A. J. Muste
Clark-Sohn Plan for World Law and Disarmament
King and the Civil Rights Movement
Lessons of the Vietnam War
Women for Peace
Anti-Nuclear Protests
Resisting Wars in Central America
Gorbachev and Ending the Cold War
Mandela and Freeing South Africa
Chomsky and Zinn on US Imperialism
Protesting the Bush-Iraq Wars
Nonviolent Revolution for Global Justice
Appendix: My Efforts for World Peace

BECK index