To End All Wars, by Adam Hochschild

May 25, 2011

World War I was the war that was supposed to end all wars, but as we now know it set in motion other wars, including World War II. Hochschild's account of the First World War, told from the perspective of Britain, does what few others have done: through very engaging narrative he weaves the alternative stories of radical socialists, internationalists and pacifists who opposed the war, which cost some of them their lives. One character stands out among the antiwar activists because he already had great intellectual stature in the country--Bertrand Russell, noted agnostic philosopher, mathematician and author of Why I Am Not a Christian. In a book he apparently ghostwrote for another prominent antiwar activist, he comments on conscientious objectors with great irony: "They believe . . . that hatred can be overcome by love, a view which appears to derive support from a somewhat hasty reading of the Sermon on the Mount."