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Changing Attitudes Towards War: The Impact of the First World War


After the First World War the belief became substantially widespread among developed countries that the venerable institution of war should be abandoned from their affairs. It was an idea whose time had come. Historically, the war does not seem to have been all that unusual in its duration, destructiveness, grimness, political pointlessness, economic consequences or breadth. It does seem to have been unique in that (1) it was the first major war to be preceded by substantial, organized anti-war agitation, and (2) for Europeans, it followed an unprecedentedly peaceful century during which even war enthusiasts began, perhaps unknowingly, to appreciate the virtues of peace. Thus the war served as a necessary catalyst for opinion change. The process through which the change took place owes much to British war aims and to their efforts to get the United States into the war. The article concludes with some reflections on the historical movement of ideas.

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1 Toynbee Arnold, Experiences (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 214.

2 Luard Evan, War in International Society (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986, p. 365; Brodie Bernard: ‘a basic historical change had taken place in the attitudes of the European (and American) peoples toward war’ (War and Politics (New York: Macmillan, 1973), p. 30); Hobsbawm Eric: ‘In 1914 the peoples of Europe, for however brief a moment, went lightheartedly to slaughter and to be slaughtered. After the First World War they never did so again’ (The Age of Empire 1875–1914 (New York: Vintage, 1987), p. 326).

3 Stromberg Roland N., Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1982), pp. 12.

4 The widespread acceptance of the notion that war had become unthinkable aided Adolf Hitler, history's supreme atavist, in his astoundingly single-minded quest to bring about another war in Europe. After the First World War most people paid Hitler the undue compliment of assuming that, no matter how belligerent his actions and demands, he could not seriously contemplate doing anything that might plunge the world into another cataclysmic war. Throughout the 1930s Hitler, a liar of truly monumental proportions, assiduously played on this perception. In virtually every speech he assured everyone – foreigners as well as the war-fearing German people – that his needs and demands were eminently limited and satisfiable, and that his fear and loathing of war was all-consuming. His arguments on this issue were agile and multifaceted. He proclaimed war to be ‘infinite madness’ (1933), a ‘disaster’ (1936), and ‘an evil’ (1938). Amplifying, he argued that it was intolerably costly (‘no possible profits could justify the sacrifices and sufferings that war entails’ – 1935), foolishly diverting, beneficial only to Communism and potentially annihilative (‘I do not believe that Europe can survive such a catastrophe’ – 1935). He also used his First World War experience to support his argument (‘these years make me in the depths of my being wishful for peace, since I recognize the frightful horrors of war’ – 1939). Incredibly, he even used his racism to show his peaceful intentions: ‘Our racial theory therefore regards every war for the subjection and domination of an alien people as a proceeding which sooner or later changes and weakens the victor internally, and eventually brings about his defeat … National Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental convictions’ – 1935 (The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922–August 1939 (London: Oxford University Press, 1942), pp. 1046, 1348, 1513, 1198, 1231, 1669, 1218–20.)

5 For the development of this argument, see Mueller John, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsoles cence of Major War (New York: Basic Books, 1989); for a comparison of nuclear weapons and changing attitudes towards war as determinants of the long peace, see Mueller John, ‘The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons: Stability in the Postwar World’, International Security, 13 (Fall 1988), pp. 5579.

6 This portion of the article is a further and far more fully developed discussion of some consider ations presented in Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, pp. 55–6.

7 On this issue, see Mead Margaret, ‘War Is Only an Invention – Not a Biological Necessity’, in Bramson Leon and Goethals George W., eds, War (New York: Basic Books, 1964), pp. 269–74; and Mueller John, ‘War as an Institution: Natural, but Not Necessary’, in Hinde Robert A., ed., The Institution of War (London: Macmillan, forthcoming).

8 Dahl Robert A., Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1971), pp. 182–3, 188.

9 Rich Norman, Hitler's War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion (New York: Norton, 1973), p. XXX.

10 Taiping: Ping-ti Ho, Studies on the Population of China, 1368–1953 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959), p. 275; First World War: Sivard Ruth Leger, World Military and Social Expenditures 1987/88 (Washington, DC: World Priorities, 1987), pp. 2931 (all Sivard estimates are based on data gathered by William Eckhardt). Sivard estimates the Taiping total deaths at 2,000,000, a figure that is almost inconceivably low: see pp. 236–47 in Ho's book.

11 McEvedy Colin and Jones Richard, Atlas of World Population History (New York: Penguin, 1978), p. 19.

12 This high estimate takes the war death figures as detailed in Sivard (World Military and Social Expenditures 1987/88, pp. 2931) for the European combatants – that is, it excludes the deaths suffered in the war by Australia (60,000), Canada (55,000), India (50,000), New Zealand (16,000). Turkey (1,450,000), and the United States (126,000). If these non-European peoples were included in the calculations, the proportion killed in the war would be lower because their populations would dramatically inflate the percentage base. McEvedy and Jones estimate that a total of 8 million military deaths were suffered in the war (Atlas of World Population History, p. 34), substantially lower than Sivard's 12,599,000. A careful and widely accepted 1923 estimate of total military deaths is also lower: between 10 and 11 million (Dumas Samuel and Vedel-Petersen K. O., Losses of Life Caused by War (London: Oxford University Press, 1923), p. 144). Others estimate total battle deaths at 9 million: Winter J. M., The Experience of World War I (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 206; Small Melvin and Singer J. David, Resort to Anns: International and Civil Wars. 1816–1980 (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1982), p. 89. Another estimate is 7,734,300: Levy Jack S., War in the Modern Great Power System. 1495–1975 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. 1983), p. 91.

13 Botterweck G. Johannes and Ringgren Helmer, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1986), pp. 189–98.

14 Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (New York: Modern Library, 1934), p. 337; Cornfeld Gaalya, ed., Josephus: The Jewish War (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1982), pp. 450–1.

15 Brent Peter, Genghis Khan (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976), pp. 117, 120.

16 Queller Donald E., The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople 1201–1204 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977), pp. 149–53.

17 Luard, War in International Society, p. 51.

18 Small and Singer, Resort to Arms, pp. 8299.

19 Parker Geoffrey, The Thirty Years War (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), p. 211.

20 Sivard estimates 2,380,000 military and civilian deaths in the Napoleonic Wars (World Military and Social Expenditures 1987/88, p. 29) when Europe had a population of 180,000,000 (McEvedy and Jones, Atlas of World Population History, p. 18), and this generates a death rate of 1–3 per cent as against 4–1 for the First World War. However, authoritative estimates of deaths in the Napoleonic Wars by nineteenth-century historians (more relevant for present purposes since these would inform the perspectives of their contemporaries) were often much higher. For example, Sivard estimates total military deaths to have been 1,380,000, but most historians held that the French alone suffered between 1,700,000 and 3,000,000 deaths; and even those who discounted that estimate argued that total military deaths in the wars were ‘less than 2,000,000’ (Dumas and Vedel-Petersen, Losses of Life Caused by War, p. 28). Levy's estimate of battle deaths in the war, 1,869,000, is substantially higher than Sivard's (War in the Modern Great Power System, p. 90). For the First World War estimates, see fn. 12 above.

21 The legend is reported in Wedgwood C. V., The Thirty Years War (London: Jonathan Cape, 1938), p. 516.

22 One partial caveat might be made to this argument about the loss of life in war. The moral notion about the ‘sanctity of life’ (as opposed to the sanctity of the soul) seems to be a fairly new one, apparently arising in the course of the nineteenth century. If human life becomes more greatly treasured, the costs of war effectively rise as a consequence of such a change in perspective or values.

23 Overy R. J., The Nazi Economic Recovery 1932–1938 (London: Macmillan, 1982), p. 16.

24 Kaeuper Richard W., War, Justice, and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 77117.

25 During the Thirty Years War – when almost two-thirds of the expenditures of the city of Nordlingen were devoted to direct military demands – the average wealth declined precipitously. The city gradually recovered during the next twenty years, but then another cycle of wars left it ‘helpless to solve its own financial problems’. It took fifty years to recover (and then only with outside intervention) at which point it was plunged once again into deep debt by the wars of the French Revolution. See Friedrichs Christopher R., Urban Society in an Age of War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 154, 169.

26 Russell Bertrand, The Impact of Science on Society (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953), p. 74.

27 Milward Alan S., War, Economy and Society, 1939–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 3.

28 Because of this phenomenon the First World War was somewhat more notably destructive compared to earlier continent-wide wars if one deals only with battle deaths. Levy calculates battle deaths as a percentage of the entire population of the continent and concludes that the First World War was 3.6 times more destructive than the Napoleonic Wars by this measure and some 2.4 times more destructive than the Thirty Years War (War in the Modern Great Power System, pp. 8991). However, if a war generates horror, this should logically spring from its total destruction, not simply from the deaths it inflicts on young men in uniform. Indeed, the ‘unnecessary’ deaths of ‘innocent civilians’ has usually been seen to be war's chief outrage. For an able discussion, see Holmes Robert L., On War and Morality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989).

29 Millet Allan R. and Moreland William B., ‘What Happened? The Problem of Causation in International Affairs’, in Knorr Klaus, ed., Historical Dimensions of National Security Problems (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976), p. 15; see also Contamine Philippe, War in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), p. 57.

30 Hale J. R., War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450–1620 (New York: St Martin's, 1985), p. 179.

31 Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, p. 84.

32 Montross Lynn, War Through the Ages (New York: Harper, 1944), pp. 27, 145. To Genghis Khan, the greatest pleasure of life is ‘to defeat your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses, and to clasp to your breast their wives and daughters’ (Kellet Anthony, Combat Motivation (Boston, Mass.: Kluwer-Nijhoff, 1982), pp. 292–3).

33 Howarth David, Waterloo: Day of Battle (New York: Atheneum, 1968), p. 207.

34 Stromberg, Redemption by War, p. 152; see also Fussell Paul, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York: Oxford, 1975), chap. 1.

35 Conceivably this receptivity was heightened by the hothouse romanticism, glorifying war, death, annihilation and destruction for their redemptive and cleansing qualities, that was so fashionable among intellectuals before 1914. For example, in ‘Peace’, a poem written as the war began, Rupert Brooke thanks God for having ‘matched us with His hour’, compares the entry into war ‘as swimmers into cleanness leaping’, and finds ‘release’ in war where ‘the worst friend and enemy is but Death’. (For a superb discussion, see Stromberg, Redemption by War.) Because of this phenomenon, it seems possible Europeans were peculiarly ripe for disillusionment. However, romanticism about war goes back to the origins of the institution. And the famous and pathetic demise of the quintessential romantic, Lord Byron, in the Greek war of independence in 1824 seems to have had no lasting impact on war romanticism.

36 Gilchrist H. L., A Comparative Study of World War Casualties from Gas and Other Weapons (Edgewood Arsenal, Md: Chemical Warfare School, 1928), p. 48.

37 Some people, in fact, did draw this lesson. H. L. Gilchrist, the US Army's leading expert on the medical effects of chemical warfare, concluded that gas ‘is the most humane method of warfare ever applied on the battle field’ (A Comparative Study of World War Casualties, p. 47). In 1925, the British defence analyst, Basil Liddell Hart, speculated that ‘gas may well prove the salvation of civilization from otherwise inevitable collapse in case of another world war’ (Mearsheimer John, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), p. 90). See also Stockton Richard, Inevitable War (New York: Perth, 1932), pp. 536–9.

38 Interestingly, in Serge Eisenstein's classic 1938 film, Alexander Nevsky, invading Teutonic knights are made to appear menacing and inhuman precisely because of their helmets.

39 Linderman Gerald F., Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the Civil War (New York: Free Press, 1987), pp. 266–97; Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, pp. 30–2, 38–9. Paul Fussell argues that the First World War was the first literary war (The Great War and Modern Memory, p. 157). However, as Edmund Wilson points out, much the same could be said about the American Civil War (Patriotic Gore (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. ix). J. M. Winter observes that the difference was that the First World War writings became ‘vastly popular’, producing such spectacular best sellers as Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Such literature, he argues, ‘emphatically and repeatedly touched a chord in public taste and popular memory’ (The Experience of World War I, p. 826). That is, the war was not new because it affected the writers, but because it touched the postwar readers.

40 Beales A. C. F., The History of Peace: A Short Account of the Organised Movements for International Peace (New York: Dial, 1931); Hinsley F. H., Power and the Pursuit of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963); Chickering Roger, Imperial Germany and a World Without War: The Peace Movement and German Society, 1892–1914 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), chap. 1; Howard Michael, War and lite Liberal Conscience (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1978), chap. 2; Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, chap. 1.

41 See Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, chap. 2.

42 As Luard points out, however, there were quite a few civil wars in Europe during this time, many of them with international implications (War in International Society, pp. 54–6).

43 War in International Society, pp. 58–9.

44 Between 1700 and 1800, the population of Europe increased by 50 per cent; between 1800 and 1900, it increased by 117 per cent (McEvedy and Jones, Atlas of World Population History, p. 18). In the 120 years between 1700 and 1820 the real gross domestic product per capita in Britain increased by 52 per cent; in the ninety-three years from 1820 to 1913, it rose by 229 per cent. For France the comparable figures were 37 per cent and 213 per cent (Maddison Angus, ‘A Comparison of Levels of GDP Per Capita in Developed and Developing Countries, 1700–1980’, Journal of Economic History, 43 (1983), 30). In the eighty years from 1750 to 1830, the real gross national product per capita for developed countries rose by 30 per cent; in the eighty-three years between 1830 and 1913, it grew by 179 per cent (Bairoch Paul, ‘The Main Trends in National Economic Disparities since the Industrial Revolution’, in Bairoch P. and Levy-Lebager M., eds, Disparities in Economic Development since the Industrial Revolution (London: Macmillan, 1981), p. 7). In 1850, ten countries had adult illiteracy rates of less than 30 percent; in 1913, seventeen had adult illiteracy rates of less than 10 per cent. In the sixty years between 1780 and 1840 world trade increased by 245 per cent; in the sixty years between 1840 and 1900 it increased by 1,241 per cent (Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire 1875–1914, pp. 345, 349). Obviously, this growth in trade did not prevent the small European wars in mid-century or the cataclysmic one in 1914. But, while trade may not lead inexorably to peace, it seems clear that peace leads to, or at any rate facilitates, trade and economic growth. That is, peace ought to be seen not as a dependent, but rather as an independent, variable in such considerations. Thus the 1992 economic unity of Europe and the building of a long-envisioned channel tunnel should be seen as the consequences of peace, not its cause.

45 See fn. 35 above and Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, pp. 3846.

46 von Treitschke Heinrich, Politics (New York: Macmillan, 1916), Vol. 2, p. 443. In England, the Revd Father H. I. D. Ryder was observing that war ‘is calculated to evoke some of the best qualities of human nature, giving the spirit a predominance over the flesh’. And he reminded his readers that ‘under the touch of civilisation war has lost some of its most offensive features’. In particular, he felt, non-combatants could now be regarded ‘as henceforth excluded from the casualties of civilised warfare’ (Ryder H. I. D., ‘The Ethics of War’, The Nineteenth Century, 45 (1899), 726–7).

47 Luard, War in International Society, p. 79.

48 Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, p. 48.

49 Lebow Richard Ned, Between Peace and War (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 251.

50 Treitschke, Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 6970.

51 The German general, Friedrich von Bernhardi, thought that another seven years war ‘will unify and elevate the people and destroy the diseases which threaten the national health’ (von Bernhardi Friedrich, Britain as Germany's Vassal (New York: Doran, 1914), p. 233). Some other Germans agreed: see Chickering, Imperial Germany and a World Without War, pp. 390–1.

52 On the short-war illusion, see Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, pp. 4651; Farrar L. L. Jr, The Short-War Illusion (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 1973); Snyder Jack, The Ideology of the Offensive (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984); Evera Stephen Van, ‘The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War’, International Security, 9 (Summer, 1984), 58107. Stanley Engerman suggests a sort of parallel in the history of boxing where rule changes have fended off the moralists and kept the sport alive by introducing rounds, shortening the duration of matches and creating the technical knockout.

53 Freud Sigmund, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 14 (London: Hogarth, 1957), pp. 278–9.

54 Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, pp. 1114.

55 Buckle Henry Thomas, History of Civilization in England, Vol. 1 (New York: Appleton, 1862), pp. 151–8.

56 See Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, p. 28.

57 Treitschke, Politics, Vol. 1, p. 15.

58 Lea Homer, The Valor of Ignorance (New York: Harper, 1909), p. 45.

59 In 1910 William James concluded that war ‘in ancient times’ was ‘profitable, as well as the most exciting, way of living’, while ‘modern war is so expensive that we feel trade to be a better avenue to plunder’. War persists, he felt, not for economic reasons but because ‘modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love of glory of his ancestors … Without any exception known to me, militarist authors take a highly mystical view of their subject’ (James William, Memories and Studies (New York: Longmans, Green, 1911), pp. 268–9, 277).

60 Churchill Winston S., Amid These Storms: Thoughts and Adventures (New York: Scribner's, 1932), p. 248; Freud Sigmund, Civilization and Its Discontents (London: Hogarth, 1930), p. 144.

61 Clarke I. F., Voices Prophesying War, 1763–1984 (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 169–70.

62 Bialer Uri, Shadow of the Bomber: The Fear of Air Attack and British Politics, 1932–1939 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1980), pp. 12.

63 Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber, p. 12, see also p. 2.

64 Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber, pp. 133–4. For non-apocalyptic visions in the 1930s of a future war, see Stockton, Inevitable War, pp. 501–49; and Dupuy R. Ernest and Eliot George Fielding, If War Comes (New York: Macmillan, 1937).

65 George David Lloyd, War Memoirs, Vol. 1 (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1933), pp. 65–6. For the impact of the invasion of Belgium in turning pacifist and neutralist factions in Britain into war supporters, see Robbins Keith, The Abolition of War: The ‘Peace Movement’ in Britain, 1914–1919 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1976), pp. 30–2.

66 Rappard William E., The Quest for Peace Since the World War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1940), p. 20. For a similar statement by the Labour party on 14 October, see Mayer Arno, Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917–1918 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 143.

67 Robbins, The Abolition of War, p. 11.

68 Rappard, The Quest for Peace Since the World War, p. 20. Before the year was out H. G. Wells, also no particular friend of the prewar peace movement, had penned a book on the issue of war aims in which he apparently created the slogan later to be recalled with such bitterness and irony: ‘The War That Will End War’. The immediate cause of the war, Wells observed, was the invasion of Luxembourg and Belgium, but the war had quickly become not one of ‘nations but of mankind’ and its object should be to ‘exorcise a world-madness and end an age’. It was, he urged, ‘a war for peace’ (Wells H. G., The War That Will End War (New York: Duffield, 1914), pp. 9, 12, 14).

69 Rappard, The Quest for Peace Since the World War, p. 21.

70 George David Lloyd, The Truth About the Peace Treaties (London: Victor Gollancz, 1938), Vol. 1, p. 22. See also Rappard, The Quest for Peace Since the World War, pp. 46–7; Herman Sondra R., Eleven Against War: Studies in American International Thought, 1898–1921 (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1969), p. 195.

71 Weigley Russell, ‘Military and Civilian Leadership’, in Knorr Klaus, ed., Historical Dimensions of National Security Problems (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976), p. 62; Mayer, Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917–1918, p. 347; Alexander and George Juliette L., Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House: A Personality Study (New York: John Day, 1956), p. 173. Wilson had long been an enthusiastic supporter of such devices promoted by the anti-war movement as arbitration and free trade; he had joined the American Peace Society in 1908, had addressed the Universal Peace Union in 1912 and had appointed a man strongly hostile to war, William Jennings Bryan, as his first Secretary of State. He was no tool of the anti-war movement, but much of his idealistic thinking about foreign affairs was consonant with its point of view (Patterson David S., Toward a Warless World: The Travail of the American Peace Movement, 1887–1914 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), pp. 205–9; see also Herman, Eleven Against War, chap. 7). A desire to make his mark in world history was also not entirely absent from his motives: as one of his principal advisers, Colonel Edward M. House, wrote strokingly to him in 1918, ‘The sentiment is growing rapidly everywhere in favor of some organized opposition to war and I think it essential that you should guide the movement … It is one of the things with which your name should be linked during the ages’ (Rappard, The Quest for Peace Since the World War, p. 33; see also George and George, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, chaps 9–11). Wilson's famous desire to ‘make the world safe for democracy’ was in large part a pacifist motivation. He and many others in Britain, France and the United States had become convinced that, as Lloyd George put it later, ‘Freedom is the only warranty of Peace’ (Rappard, The Quest for Peace Since the World War, pp. 42–4).

72 Rappard, The Quest for Peace Since the World War, p. 46.

73 Brown Frederic J., Chemical Warfare: A Study in Restraints (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 14.

74 See Hofstadter Richard, Social Darwinism in American Thought (New York: Braziller, 1959), pp. 196–8. For an official American depiction of the connection, see Notestein Wallace and Stoll Elmer E., eds, Conquest and Kultur: Aims of the Germans in Their Own Words (Washington, DC: US Government, Committee on Public Information, 1917). For a discussion of the destruction of Prussian militarism as an important British war aim, see Gooch John, The Prospect of War: Studies in British Defence Policy, 1847–1942 (London: Frank Cass, 1981), chap. 7. On the effectiveness of British propaganda, see Squires James Duane, British Propaganda at Home and in the United States From 1914 to 1917 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1935).

75 Link Arthur S., Wilson, the Diplomatist: A Look at his Major Foreign Policies (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957), pp. 88–9.

76 On the German and Austrian prewar peace movement, see Wank Solomon, ‘The Austrian Peace Movement and the Habsburg Ruling Elite, 1906–1914’, in Chatfield Charles and van den Dungen Peter eds, Peace Movements and Political Cultures (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 1988), pp. 4063; Chickering Roger, ‘War, Peace, and Social Mobilization in Imperial Germany: Patriotic Societies, the Peace Movement, and Socialist Labor’, in Chatfield and van den Dungen, Peace Movements and Political Cultures, pp. 322; and Chickering, Imperial Germany and a World Without War.

77 Chatfield Charles, For Peace and Justice (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 1971), p. 8; see also Patterson, Toward a Warless World, chap. 7; Kuehl Warren F., Seeking World Order: The United States and International Organization to 1920 (Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969), p. 172.

78 See Chatfield, For Peace and Justice, pp. 1587.

79 See Patterson, Toward a Warless World, chap. 6.

80 In 1915 Norman Angell observed that any talk of five minutes with an American pacifist would find his drawing ‘from his pocket a complete scheme for the federation of the world’ (Kuehl, Seeking World Order, p. 239). Ray Stannard Baker concludes that ‘practically nothing – not a single idea – in the Covenant of the League was original with the President’ (George and George, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, p. 210).

81 On this point, see George and George, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, chap. 15. For discussion, see Kuehl, Seeking World Order, chap. 14.

82 See Wank, ‘The Austrian Peace Movement and the Habsburg Ruling Elite’, pp. 4852. The National Arbitration and Peace Conference which packed Carnegie Hall in New York in 1907 was supported by eight cabinet officers, two former presidential candidates, ten Senators, four Supreme Court justices, nine governors, ten mayors, twenty-seven millionaires, eighteen college presidents, thirty labour leaders, forty bishops, sixty newspaper editors and representatives of 166 businesses (Patterson, Toward a Warless World, p. 129).

83 Gooch G. P., History of Our Time, 1885–1911 (London: Williams and Norgate, 1911), pp. 248–9.

84 Angell Norman, After All: An Autobiography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1951), p. 178.

85 On this comparison, see Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, pp. 1113; and Ray James Lee, ‘The Abolition of Slavery and the End of International War’, International Organization, 43 (1989), 405–39.

86 On this issue see Howard Michael, The Causes of Wars and Other Essays, 2nd edn (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1984), p. 9; Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday, chap. 2; Stromberg, Redemption by War, The war, of course, substantially disillusioned the nineteenth-century meliorists who held that Europe was becoming progressively more civilized; but that was nothing compared to what it did to those who held that war was progressive. On the shattering of the meliorist myth, see Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, p. 8. Fussell also argues that the war ‘reversed the Idea of Progress’. In his classic, The Idea of Progress (London: Macmillan, 1920), J. B. Bury suggests that the idea continued to develop after the war.

87 Angell, After All, pp. 146–7, 159–60.

88 Chickering, Imperial Germany and a World Without War, p. 91.

89 James, Memories and Studies, p. 304.

90 For useful efforts to deal with the phenomenon in the domestic political context, see Kingdon John W., Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policy (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1984); and Riker William H., Liberalism Against Populism (San Francisco: Freeman, 1982). In several respects it seems more productive to think about ideas whose time has come rather than to see the process as one of grand social learning. ‘Learning’ in this sense is, of course, a metaphor, and while the metaphor has some valuable resonances, it is misleading for at least three reasons. Firstly, the metaphor suggests that an idea, once ingested, cannot be undone. An idea whose time has come, on the other hand, can eventually be abandoned. Secondly (and relatedly), the learning analogy implies progress and betterment. But obviously, plenty of ideas that by most accepted standards prove to be bad ones – like state Communism, totalitarianism, trial by combat, genocide, the Spanish inquisition, aeroplane hijacking – also get ‘learned’. Thirdly, the learning metaphor tends to imply that new ideas can only be acquired slowly. The notion of the idea whose time has come is burdened by no such bias. While some ideas grow slowly, others (for example, that it is time for the countries of East Europe to be democratic) can catch on almost overnight.

91 See Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday.

* Department of Political Science, University of Rochester. An earlier version of this article was presented at the meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta, 1989.1 would like to thank Stanley Engerman, Richard Kaeuper and William Reader for help in gathering historical data, and Stanley Engerman, Carl Kaysen and the referees for this Journal for comments on an earlier draft.

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