“Sane Ideas which May Yet Save the World from Further Conflict”

Bertrand Russell’s and Julian Huxley’s lecture tours in early Cold War Australia

Authored by: Jo Grant

The Routledge History of World Peace Since 1750

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138069138
eBook ISBN: 9781315157344
Adobe ISBN:


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British public intellectuals and friends Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) and Julian Huxley (1887–1975) were two significant peace advocates of the twentieth century. Russell is arguably best known for his peace activism during World War I and the nuclear disarmament campaign of the Cold War. Huxley is often remembered as a conservationist and also as the first Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Yet their peace advocacy extended far beyond these roles. As intellectuals, both regarded lecturing as an important and valuable means of public education for social change. In the early years of the Cold War, in 1950 and 1953 respectively, Russell and Huxley undertook lengthy lecture tours for the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA). These tours were intended to raise awareness of international relations among the Australian public, but Norman Cowper, the AIIA president of 1950 and a Sydney solicitor, also hoped that the speakers would generate “sane ideas which may yet save the world from further conflict.” 1 Russell and Huxley used these opportunities to share their liberal visions of world peace that concerned individual fulfillment and happiness as much as cooperation between nation states. While both men undertook well-received lecture tours in other countries after World War II, analysis of their often-forgotten Australian tours proves instructive. Their tours represent key tenets of liberal internationalism as a major strand of peace thinking and the extent of its popularity mid-century in Western countries in particular. These events also demonstrate how the lecture hall was a central site in the global circulation of ideas of world peace throughout the twentieth century.

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