In This Review

Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas
Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas
By David Cortright
Cambridge University Press, 2008, 392 pp

Cortright's thorough and thoughtful discussion of the ideas and movements that have associated themselves with the word "peace" deserves a wide audience. It covers a lot of ground without appearing rushed and covers some interesting detail along the way on the origins of key concepts, the roles of religion and international law, and the continuing struggle against charges of cowardice and a lack of patriotism. Cortright writes with a commitment to the cause but also sufficient detachment to allow readers to make up their own minds about the issues being addressed. Peace movements have suffered from, he acknowledges, "a persistent naïveté, a tendency toward utopianism . . . , an inadequate grasp of the unavoidable dilemmas of security, [and] an unwillingness to accept the inherent egoism of human communities." Yet when "pacifism" is taken broadly to refer to all those working on the problem of how to prevent war and build peace, rather than just a pure moral stance, he notes broad achievements. Many of the commonplace ideas of international security originated with groups that were considered in their time to be either unpatriotic or hopelessly idealistic.