In This Review

The World’s Most Prestigious Prize: The Inside Story of the Nobel Peace Prize
The World’s Most Prestigious Prize: The Inside Story of the Nobel Peace Prize
By Geir Lundestad
Oxford University Press, 2019, 240 pp

Since it was first awarded, in 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been given annually to a kaleidoscopic assortment of activists, politicians, diplomats, moral leaders, and organizations—from Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams to Amnesty International and the European Union. Lundestad, a longtime director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, argues that despite the diversity of figures and causes, the honorees tend to reflect a “Norwegian approach” to international politics, a mix of realism, idealism, and liberal internationalism that emphasizes practical efforts to promote democracy, human rights, humanitarianism, disarmament, and international cooperation. In its early years, the prize went primarily to European and American men, but the committee has since broadened its reach, honoring women, non-Western groups, and activists engaged in local and nontraditional peacemaking, such as environmentalism and campaigns against sexual violence. Many view the Nobel Peace Prize as an expression of Western liberal values. The Chinese government protested bitterly in 2010 when the award was given to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese human rights activist. But Lundestad makes an eloquent case that the prize has a universal appeal, grounded in humanitarian and nonviolent ideals on which no country or civilization holds a monopoly.