human history people have all too often
resorted to using violence to settle their
differences. When large groups of people
act together to fight other groups, we
call it war. Archaeological evidence has
found that large groups of people were
killed through violent acts more than
12,000 years ago. The number and widespread
scope of wars increased around 5000 years
ago with the formation of states - organized
communities living under a unified government.
Since then it is estimated that 3.5 billion
people have died in 14,500 wars.
is filled with stories of states and nations
fighting over disagreements, or battling
for resources, or of empires conquering
smaller states and battling each other.
But there have also been many attempts
throughout history to try to limit and
prevent the outbreak of wars between states.
In 1518 all of the European countries
signed the Treaty of London, for example,
as an attempt to try to live in peace.
In 1623, French political writer, Eméric
Crucé proposed the idea of a European
Council to bring European countries together.
Despite each attempt, wars continued to
the late 1700s, the lofty ideals of the
Enlightenment brought a new sense of entitlement
of basic rights and expectation about
a more just and fair way that nations
could and should be run. However, overthrowing
the old ways and securing this new justice
more often than not took the route of
violent revolution. After the American
and French Revolutions, 'nationalism'
became a driving force for change.
is a devotion to the interests or culture
of one's 'nation'. The concept of a nation
differs from that of a state, in that
a nation is a group of people who are
united by a shared culture, history or
language, while the members of a state
simply obey the same government. Before
the rise of nationalism, people were most
often loyal to a particular leader, like
a King who claimed divine authority over
them, or to the city where they lived.
With the Age of Enlightenment came the
idea that a state's government was only
just if it acted in the best interest
of the nation - the people the state was
supposed to represent. This rise of nationalism
led to wars for ethnic independence like
the Greek War of Independence. But as
patriotism for one's nation grew, it also
led to a sense that one's nation was superior
to other nations, which inevitably led
to more tension and conflicts.
19th century Europe, nationalistic tensions,
combined with economic inequalities brought
about by the Industrial Revolution, and
military advancements like the invention
of dynamite and more efficient killing
machines capable of causing more horrific
and widespread destruction, set the stage
for a war mentality that led to a growing
arms race between nations. Many were rightly
concerned and saw the urgent need for
international agreements and institutions
that would not only help prevent wars
from occurring, but would also reverse
the trend of having to spend a large percentage
of a nation's resources on military armaments
to keep up with the rest of the nations
1899, Russian Tsar Nicholas II invited
the leaders of Europe to meet in The Netherlands
at The Hague to discuss disarmament, international
laws that would help to limit wars between
nations, and the establishment of an international
court to settle disputes peacefully. A
Second Hague Conference was held in 1906
and a third was planned for 1914, but
never took place because of the start
of World War I. Nevertheless, the Hague
Conventions were a significant step forward
in creating a body of international law
to replace the institution of war as an
accepted way to settle disputes.
Hague conferences for peace were also
significant in the role that civil society
played before and after the conferences.
Peace societies and religious groups from
Europe and America helped convince leaders
to attend and helped convince nations
to abide by the laws and participate in
the Permanent Court of Arbitration the
conventions helped create.