Often over-looked in the history of the world since 1900 were the triumph of philosophies of non-violence, civil disobedience against unjust laws, and peace movements.
Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Richard Gregg, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. had an enormous impact, and continue to do so. These movements, which elevate the noble ideas that war and violence are not necessary, have been surprisingly successful. And they continue to serve as a foundation for conflict resolution, mediation, peace studies, and diplomacy.
This is easy to forget when the most recent dramatic example — the Arab Spring in the Middle East in the 2010s — was ruthlessly crushed, at least in the short term. Peaceful, non-violent revolution in Russia in the early 20th century also failed, and some argue that Europe’s “Spring of Nations” in 1848 failed for similar reasons. Numerous books and countless articles have been written on why these revolutions failed.
Perhaps more amazing, given human propensity for war and violence, is why some of these revolutions succeeded — most notably, an end to British colonialism in India and much of the 53-nation British commonwealth; an end to legalized discrimination, segregation, and enactment of civil rights legislation for African Americans in the United States; and peaceful transition in South Africa from apartheid and white minority rule to black majority democratic rule.
John Green of Crash Course World History offered this overview:
“Humans often resort to violence when they come into conflict. In the 20th century, it became much more common for people to enact change by means of nonviolence, and there was a common thread of connection between many of the most notable advocates of peaceful change. Crash Course will take you from Gandhi to Gregg to Bayard Rustin to Martin Luther King, Jr, to the Cold War to Arab Spring along a path of nonviolent resistance and peaceful change.” Transcript.
The Kingdom of God is Within You
War and Peace
“A Letter to a Hindu”
Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy’s Theory of History
“The Story of my Experiments with Truth”
Henry David Thoreau
Gandhi in South Africa
Indian resistance to British rule
Jain community of monks
Salt March of 1930
Gandhi’s views of Western societies
Vietnamese Independence Movement
Phan Chu Trinh
Egyptian strikes against British rule, 1919
Resistance to American involvement in World War I
Fellowship of Reconciliation
AJ Musty and Kirby Page and Dorothy Day
The Power of Nonviolence
Spanish Civil War
Nazi Gestapo response to unarmed women
Bayard Rustin linked Gandhi and King
Martin Luther King’s trip to India, 1959
Alexander Dubcek, the Czech Communist Party
Soviets crushed the spring in 1969