Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Geir Lundestad is the second-longest serving Director (1990–2014) of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize. This position is always held by historians, with Lundestad as the internationally most prominent scholar, posessing an impressive ability to continue his academic authorship during his tenure as Director. Following retirement at the end of 2014, he has devoted most of his time to writing the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. A controversial first book in Norwegian in 2015 Fredens sekretær [The Secretary of Peace] was quite candid – too candid, according to some – in divulging information from the Committee's work and in characterizing some of its members. A second book Drømmen om fred på jord [The Dream of Peace on Earth] reviewed the history of the thinking about war and peace underlying the prizes from 1901 until today. This volume in English has been translated from material in both these books. There are probably over 300 peace prizes around the world, some of them better funded than the Nobel. Yet, Lundestad is not shy to cite the Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary History in calling the Nobel Peace Prize 'the world's most prestigious prize'. He explains that extending the concept of peace from a narrow focus on disarmament has been part of the committee's thinking from the start and argues convincingly for extensions to human rights and the environment, although he will not end the perennial debate about the committee's remit. Altogether a useful and highly readable volume, which would have been even better if he had let the reader enjoy his own English prose rather than relying on translation.