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Peace Congresses Leading Up to World War I

3rd International Peace Congress, 1891, Rome<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>
3rd International Peace Congress, 1891, Rome
Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection

On August 12, 1898, in a circular letter addressed to the representatives of different nations, the Emperor of Russia proposed to all governments, which had duly accredited representatives at the imperial court, the holding of a conference to consider the problem of the preservation of peace among nations. During the summer of 1899 the conference assembled at The Hague in The Netherlands, and by September a number of nations had ratified its agreements. A Permanent Court of Arbitration was established at The Hague, composed of representatives of each of the signatory powers appointed for a term of six years. The South and Central American republics were not represented at the conference, but a subsequent conference in 1901-1902 held in Mexico negotiated their concerns.


International Peace Congress, Boston, 1904<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>
International Peace Congress, Boston, 1904
Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection

A second international peace conference was held at The Hague from June 15 to October 18, 1907. Forty-four entities were represented, including the principal nations of Europe, North and South America, and Asia. The conference drew up thirteen conventions; these were particularly concerned with naval warfare, with the creation of an International Prize Court, and with a declaration prohibiting the discharge of projectiles and explosives from balloons.

Anna B. Eckstein of Germany saw as her greatest work the collection of signatures for "The World Petition to Prevent War Between Nations," to be signed by heads of the 44 signatory powers of the Hague Conventions. It was to serve as a "mutual pledge of the 44 nations to respect, as inviolable, every nation's fundamental factors of life and natural liberty. . . ., to adjust all international interests by treaty, and by arbitration reduce the necessity of armaments." She presented the first version of the petition in 1907 to the second Hague Conference with some two million signatures, at which time she was received by the Queen of the Netherlands and her Ministers. Eckstein began to prepare another petition for the 3rd Hague Conference. She had some 6 million signatures when her efforts in this regard were ended by the advent of World War I.


Frederic Passy, French founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1901<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small> Baroness Bertha von Suttner, influential Austrian author, aided Alfred Nobel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1905<br/><small>American Peace Society Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small> Frederic Bajer, Danish member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, winner of Nobel Peace Prize, 1908<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>


The forerunner of the League of Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), was formed by peace activists William Randal Cremer and Frédéric Passy in 1889. The organization was international in scope. Its aims were to encourage governments to solve disputes by peaceful means, and arbitration and annual conferences were held to help them refine the process.

A series of international peace congresses called the Universal Peace Congress took place between 1889 and 1913 (and beyond).

1st congress: Paris (1889)
2nd congress: London (1890)
3rd congress: Rome (1891)
4th congress: Bern (1892)
5th congress: Chicago (1893)
6th congress: Antwerp (1894)
7th congress: Budapest (1896)
8th congress: Hamburg (1897)
9th congress: Paris (1900)
10th congress: Glasgow (1901)
11th congress: Monaco (1902)
12th congress: Rouen (1903)
13th congress: Boston (1904)
14th congress: Luzern (1905)
15th congress: Milan (1906)
16th congress: Munich (1907)
17th congress: London (1908)
18th congress: Stockholm (1910)
19th congress: Geneva (1912)
20th congress: The Hague (1913)

Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, Swarthmore College Peace Collection [AMY]

Other resources at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection on international peace congresses:

American Peace Society Records
Anna B. Eckstein Collected Papers
Bertha von Suttner Collected Papers
Universal Peace Union Records
Subject File: Events re: Peace, Box 1

Francois Beernaert, Belgian member of the Court of Arbitration at The Hague<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small> Princess Wiszniewska, daughter of Victor Hugo, president of the Women's Universal Alliance for Peace<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small> Henri La Fontaine, Belgian participant in peace congresses for 25 years, winner of Nobel Peace Prize, 1913<br/><small>Universal Peace Union Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>


See also the following pages on this site about resources from the Swarthmore College Peace Collection:

Conscientious Objection During World War I
Opposition to the War in the United States

Quaker Civilian War-Relief in the Great War and its Aftermath, 1914-1922
Women Peace Activists During World War I


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Last Modified: 2023-08-03 16:21:01