David Stevenson

Peace of Mind

The Internationalists and Their Plan to Outlaw War


Allen Lane 581pp £30 order from our bookshop

This book has a powerful and timely message, though one weakened by overstatement. At its core is the Pact of Paris signed on 27 August 1928, better known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact (named after the then American secretary of state and the French minister for foreign affairs). The document’s text is simple:

Article I: The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
Article II: The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.

In short, the pact aspired to outlaw war. Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro, both professors at Yale Law School, claim its signature was ‘among the most transformative events of human history’. They acknowledge that this assertion is, to put it mildly, counterintuitive. Most of the standard texts on the modern history of international relations give the Kellogg-Briand Pact only the briefest of mentions; commentators from George Kennan to Henry Kissinger have been derisive. Of the pact’s fifteen original signatory states (the number has since risen to sixty-seven, including Bosnia and Herzegovina as recently as 1994), all but Ireland participated in the Second World War little more than a decade later, and the world in 2017 seems to show few signs of being emancipated from armed conflict. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The breadth of Clarke’s knowledge and experience, coupled to a conspicuous absence of pomposity, makes for easy an… ,
    • In this month's Silenced Voices, Lucy Popescu shines a light on Myanmar's persecution of writers and journalists, p… ,
    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,