Pacifism and the Science of War: Jane Addams and Bertrand Russell on World War I


  • Marilyn Fischer University of Dayton



In July 1915, after hearing Jane Addams speak in London on her efforts for peace during wartime, Bertrand Russell wrote to an American friend, “You can gather what I think and feel by talking to Miss Addams. She seemed to me to have exactly the same outlook as I have.” In this paper I compare how Russell and Addams used the era’s scientific theories in formulating their pacifism. After recounting Addams’s and Russell’s experiences during the war, I show how Addams and Russell accounted for civilization’s “descent into barbarism” in parallel ways. I then contrast their conceptions of what counts as progress in civilization, and show how these differences shaped their critiques of war. In the final section I compare how their responses correlated with the forms their activism took during the war.