Norwegian lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl, who holds an LLM from NYU, argued in his book, Nobels vilje published in 2008, that half the awards of the Peace Prize have not conformed to Alfred Nobel’s 1895 testamentary intentions. Now his book is about to be published in translation as The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted and the issue is being mooted in the English-speaking press.
Heffermehl’s interpretation is that “Nobel did not establish a prize for ‘peace’ in whatever guise, but a prize for work for peace in certain ways and certain fields” [emphasis in the original]; he created a prize for those who worked in certain ways to abolish the military and, so, to stop war.
You can judge for yourself — well, more or less, if you don’t read Swedish — because Nobel’s will is available online translated into English (Swedish version). The portion most specific to the “peace prize,” one of five equal portions of the interest of a fund, reads as follows:
. . . and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. . . .
. . . that [prize] for champions of peace [be awarded] by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting.
It’s not clear to me, not having read the Norwegian book, what Heffermehl’s exact concern is with the “fraternity” provision, which would seem to cover a multitude of sins, shall we say, particularly when followed by “champions of peace.”
Norway and Sweden are both involved in the awarding of Nobel Prizes. At the time of Alfred Nobel’s death Norway had been united with Sweden since the Napoleonic wars and didn’t gain its freedom until 1905.
[Hat tip: @LawandLit]