The establishment of the Peace Prize

In his will, Alfred Nobel laid down that the whole of his remaining realizable estate - by the standards of the time the staggering amount of 31.5 million Swedish crowns (some 1.5 billion at today's rates) - should be invested in safe securities, "the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind". The will also specified in which fields the prizes should be awarded - physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature, and peace - and which criteria the respective prize committees should apply when choosing their prize-winners. With regard to the Peace Prize, the will stipulated that it was to be awarded 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".

It was Alfred Nobel's will that to award the Peace Prize a committee of five should be appointed by the Norwegian Storting.

The Storting accepted the assignment in April 1897, and the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting was set up in August of the same year. In Sweden, however, Nobel's will triggered a long legal battle with sections of the Nobel family. It was not until this had been resolved, and financial matters had been satisfactorily arranged through the establishment of the Nobel Foundation in Sweden in 1900, that the Norwegian Nobel Committee (as it is now known) and the other prize-awarding bodies could begin their work.

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901. The Peace Prize for that year was shared between the Frenchman Frédéric Passy and the Swiss Jean Henri Dunant.


Alfred Nobel's will

Foto: © The Nobel Foundation

The first page of Alfred Nobel's will which established the legal basis for the five Nobel Prizes.


Read more on Alfred Nobel's will