The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted

The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted

The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted

The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted


The Nobel Peace Prize is the world's most coveted award, galvanizing the world's attention for 110 years. In recent decades, it has also become the world's most reviled award, as heads of militarized states and out-and-out warmongers and terrorists have been showered with peace prizes. Delving into previously unpublished primary sources, Fredrik Heffermehl reveals the history of the inner workings of the Norwegian Nobel Committee as it has come under increasing political, geopolitical, and commercial pressures to make inappropriate awards.

As a Norwegian lawyer, Heffermehl makes the case that the Norwegian politicians entrusted with the Nobel peace awards have brushed aside the legal requirements in Scandinavian estate law using the prize to promote their own political and personal interests instead of the peace ideas Alfred Nobel had in mind. Evaluating each of the 119 Nobel Peace Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2009, the author tracks the ever-widening divergence of the committee's selections from Nobel's intentions and concludes that all but one of the last ten prizes are illegitimate under the law.


This book will surprise many. It certainly surprised the author, turning 70, to see his primary concerns and experiences through life suddenly consolidate into this one project. At age 16, I had grappled with the dilemmas of being called up to serve, to be trained—and potentially ordered—to shoot my peers over the coincidences of history and national borders. Still believing that reason, morality, and concern for what was best—taking everyone into account—must govern the world, I thought that such an unserviceable institution as the military must be abolished in a matter of years. Later I became a business lawyer, interrupted by a most rewarding and interesting year as a postgraduate student at the New York University School of Law, before I started to work full time for peace in the early 1980s.

My understanding of “peace” and how to achieve it was developed during my years as vice president of the International Peace Bureau and of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms. As president of the Norwegian Peace Council, I was invited to attend all of the ceremonies and Nobel banquets between 1989 and 2008. I first attended the Nobel ceremony in 1958—and it took 49 years before I suddenly understood the hidden truth about the Peace Prize—that it responded perfectly to the dilemmas I had first encountered at age 16.

The Nobel Peace Prize is the world’s most important prize and is—not without reason—the most visible and prestigious. the roll call of winners . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.