The Danish Peace Academy

Holger Terp: Danish Peace History

Working paper 1


When the history of peace disappears, myths are created. The most important is the myth that all agreed with the policy of their rulers, and yes, there was no opposition. The early Danish concepts of peace and pacifism have yet to be fully investigated.

Little has been written in the international academic literature about peace work in Denmark. “The Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders” has only two Danish entries2. Professor Gene Sharp discovered one of many Danish publications on non violence3. The history of peace work and pacifism in Denmark is nearly non existent before 1849.

The much learned Canadian professor of history Peter Brock4 fails to find one Scandinavian pacifist in his “Pacifism in Europe to 1914”. The volume of Brock could have been titled, 'Religious Pacifism in Europe to 1914' from 1972 an update of Hirst's “The Quakers in Peace and War” from 1923. Peter Brock knows the history of the peace movement including the history of the radical and political parts of the movement. He have read Bart de Ligt, Jacob ter Meulen and the publications from the Norwegian Nobel Institute. In “Pacifism in Europe to 1914” there is p. 508 one promising reference to Norway and one reference to a Norwegian publication: August Schou: “Historie de l'internationalisme” vol. II and III. Brock has no direct references to Danish and Norwegian pacifism, even though Schou in Vol. III refers to Fredrik Bajer and in the chapter §3 Le movement de la paix organisé Danemark, has a short history of Bajer and the Danish Peace Society. In vol. II August Schou and Christian L. Lange tells the story of Norwegian peace apostle Anders Kempe, but they also overlook the story of Jesper Baltzarsen Könecken.

Two years before the publication of “Pacifism in Europe to 1914”, Peter Brock had discovered the Danish conscientious objectors law of December 1917: “In no country could nonreligious objectors gain official recognition until in 1917 Denmark instituted an alternative service system for which no religious test was required”.

Then Peter Brock did not ask the simple question: why was the Danish conscientious objectors law written as it was? Could the answer be because of great politically based objection? Twenty-one years later Peter Brock publish his “Freedom from violence”, wherein Fredrik Bajer is (rightly) turned down as pacifist, he was an internationalist.

In “Freedom from violence” Peter Brock describes Scandinavian Christian pacifism.

As in his former books we see that the main focus of Brock is the religious pacifism, as the appendix has the title “Christian Pacifism in Denmark and Sweden to 1914”. In the appendix appears the following to me unknown pacifists: Mogens A. Sømmer and Christian Hope.

The domestic and international Danish peace work has a long tradition, just as other countries.

I am not a historian or peace researcher. I am an educated librarian with poor eyes, using the tools of my trade and here mostly historian thesis and printed primary sources. Secondary volumes are used mainly to check how the history had been used.

Thanks for the kind help and expertise from the employees at the Record Office, the Royal Library of Copenhagen and my local library at Friheden. Also many thanks to American professor in English Julianna Free for improving my poor English.


2 Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders / Editor in chief: Harold Josephson. - Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985. - 1133 pp.

3 Kamp uden Vaaben : Ikke-Vold som Kampmiddel mod Krig og Undertrykkelse / Niels Lindberg ; Gammelgaard Jacobsen ; Karl Erlich. 1937 .

4 Brock, Peter: Freedom from War : Nonsectarian pacifism 1814-1914.

Brock, Peter: Pacifism in Europe to 1914.
- Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1972 - 556 pp.

Brock, Peter: Twentieth Century Pacifism.
- New York : Van Nostrand Reinold, 1970. - 274 pp.


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