Pioneers of Peace

William Penn


October 14, 1644 — July 30, 1718


William Penn was an English writer and thinker recognized as the founder of Pennsylvania. Though technically a colonizer, Penn was a steadfast pacifist and helped to establish a rare peace between European colonizers and American-Indigenous. He also encouraged peace in Europe and religious liberty especially, helping to form a foundation for liberal democracy. An oft-overlooked figure, Penn is a quintessential Enlightenment Era thinker, liberal, and peacemaker.


Henry David Thoreau


July 12, 1817 — May 6, 1862


Henry David Thoreau was an American author and thinker. His classic essay "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" is essential reading as it lays the foundation for passive resistance later utilized by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A lifelong abolitionist, Thoreau was also a pioneer of transcendentalism — the philosophy that finds people to be inherently good, independent and self-reliant.


Richard Cobden


June 3, 1804 — April 2, 1865


Richard Cobden was a member of British Parliament best known for his fight to repeal the Corn Laws. He was a fierce advocate of free trade, non-intervention, and peace. In addition to helping to repeal the Corn Laws which reduced tariffs, he also negotiated the Anglo-French trade agreement of 1860. Cobden is undoubtably a pioneer of peace and a rare peaceful politician.


Jane Addams


September 6, 1860 — May 21, 1935


Jane Addams was a leading women’s suffrage and world peace activist who became the second woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She is considered the founder of the social work profession in the U.S. in addition to co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union and Hull House in Chicago, a home to help new immigrants integrate. A radical centrist and pragmatist, Addams is undoubtably a Pioneer of Peace even if she is not a traditional liberal and even as her ideas are today distorted to justify pursuing impractical ends.


Sir Norman Angell


December 26, 1872 — October 7, 1967


Sir Norman Angell was a British writer and the only person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for publishing a book — his 1910 classic, The Great Illusion. While popular in the early 1900s, Angell fell out of favor at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He briefly rose to prominence again and collected the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize before falling out of favor again at the outbreak of World War II. Today, his idea that war is unprofitable remains relevant though Angell remains unpopular for insisting that WWI wouldn’t occur. Like most in the library, Angell was highly imperfect but a Pioneer of Peace nonetheless.


Prof. Elise M. Boulding


July 6, 1920 — June 24, 2010


Professor Elise M. Boulding was a Norwegian-American sociologist, peace activist, and scholar. She was a prolific author of conflict resolution and is considered a foremother of modern Peace and Conflict Studies. Boulding served as a Professor at Dartmouth College and was nominated for the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize. Largely unknown to younger generations, she is an early Professor of Peace and the most recent Pioneer of Peace.




Stay tuned as we unveil more Pioneers of Peace in the coming weeks and months. Feel free to reach out on social media or via email to make a suggestion!