The Abbe de St. Pierre and Voltaire on Perpetual Peace in Europe

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Riley, Patrick. World Affairs 137, no. 3 (1974): 186–94.

This article sets out the Abbé de St Pierre’s eighteenth century plan for ‘perpetual peace in Europe’, which Riley recognises as ‘the first comprehensive plan for peace in Europe’. The article describes the Abbé’s plan and inspirations, such as the idea of an institutional union inspired by the Holy Roman Empire. It is clear that this plan was an early version of the European Union, and this modern conception of peace in Europe aids Riley’s analysis of the criticisms of the Abbé’s plan. He brings in the voices of Voltaire and Kant, who seemed to be the plan’s most significant critics. Voltaire’s own views take priority in this article, as his parallel plan for peace called for global enlightenment rather than an institutional union within Europe, which he said would be as effective as a union between ‘elephants and rhinoceros, or wolves and dogs’. Similarly, Kant wrote that the idea was only ‘valid in theory’, a quote which exemplifies the article’s central theme of the discordance between the practice and theory of peace.

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