Nobel Peace Prize Award for 1901 - 1905

About the Nobel Peace Prize Award from 1901 to 1905 including winners Suttner and Dunant, their works, and history.


1901 Jean Henri Dunant (1828--1910), Swiss

Work: Founded International Red Cross Frederic Passy (1822--1912), French

Work: Founded first French peace organization Nobel Laureates: Raised amid wealth in Geneva, Dunant at 26 abandoned missionary work for banking. Yet his concern for the downtrodden continued, and in 1859, after observing firsthand the bloody Battle of Solferino, he rushed in to care for the thousands of French, Italian, and Austrian wounded. The experience moved Dunant to campaign for an organization to ease the plight of war's casualties. He later went bankrupt and dropped from sight. Although poor and sick, he refused to spend the Nobel Prize money, leaving it instead to charity.

Passy's education in law and economics convinced him that the path to peace lay in free world trade. In 1867 he founded the International League of Peace, only to see it crumble in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He later reconstituted the organization as the French Society of the Friends of Peace. He also helped form the Interparliamentary Union as a forum for the world's national legislatures to meet and exchange ideas.

Nobel Lore: The first peace prize proved controversial. Speculation centered on reasons for splitting the prize. Some felt that Dunant's efforts fell in the category of medicine, because the Red Cross accepted war as a fact of life and sought only to ameliorate its effects.

1902 Elie Ducommun (1833--1906), Swiss Charles A. Gobat (1843--1914), Swiss

Work: Headed in succession the Permanent International Bureau of Peace at Bern

1903 William R. Cremer (1828--1908), British

Work: Founded Workmen's Peace Association, which later evolved into the International Arbitration League

1904 Institute of International Law

Work: Codified international law on such matters as national citizenship and the rules of war

1905 Bertha von Suttner (1843--1914), Austrian

Work: Lectured, organized, and wrote for peace

Nobel Laureate: Born a countess in Prague, her family fell on hard times, and Bertha hired on as a governess to the Suttner children. She later served briefly as Alfred Nobel's secretary before returning to Austria in 1876 to marry one of her former wards, Baron Arthur von Suttner, seven years her junior. The disapproval of the groom's parents pushed the couple across the Black Sea to Russia, where they eked out a living writing articles together. In 1889 she published Die Waffen Nieder (Lay Down Your Arms), a moving indictment of war and its effect on mankind. The book was an instant success worldwide. She edited a pacifist journal named after her book and attended peace conferences all over the world. The Boer War, the Spanish-American War, saber rattling from the imperial houses of Europe--she spoke out against them all. Death spared her by just one week from witnessing the outbreak of W.W.I. Her contempt for man's twisted values she best summed up in these words: "You praise death so highly that you deem it worthy of being suffered by your God Himself--in agony, bleeding, lamenting--on the cross. The most honorable and enviable death is in your opinion the one found in homicidal struggle, and to your love children you affix the label illegitimate birth."

Nobel Lore: For four years Norwegian judges had resisted pressure from the Nobel family to award the gold medal to Nobel's former secretary. This time they gave in. Suttner claimed that she had inspired her former boss to create the peace prize, but Nobel's interest in pacifism seems to have predated his encounter with the countess.

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