Why Norway?

No one knows for certain why Alfred Nobel wanted the Peace Prize in particular to be awarded by a Norwegian committee - or what prompted him to include Norway in the Nobel Prize proceedings at all.

There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that it was through his friendship with the Austrian author and peace activist Bertha von Suttner that he became convinced that peace ought to be included among the five prize categories. But could he not just as well have given a Swedish committee responsibility for the award?

He may have been influenced by a number of circumstances. For one thing, there was a union between Sweden and Norway, and it may in many ways have seemed right and proper for the union's little brother also to have a say. Seeing that Sweden's research in the natural sciences and medicine was more advanced than Norway's, it was natural to establish those prize committees in Sweden. Nobel was a great admirer of Norwegian literature, but Norway as a nation had no literary institution capable of managing the Literature Prize with the authority of the Swedish Academy. Peace was the only remaining area.

Nobel may moreover also have felt that Norway was in fact better suited than Sweden to awarding a prize for peace. The country did not have the same militaristic traditions as Sweden, and at the end of the nineteenth century the Norwegian Storting (legislative assembly) had become closely involved in the Inter-Parliamentary Union and its efforts to resolve conflicts through mediation and arbitration. It would appear that Nobel set great store by such commitment.

It has also been suggested that Nobel may have been influenced by his adviser Ragnar Sohlman, whose wife was Norwegian, or by the Norwegian author and campaigner for peace Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, whom Nobel greatly admired.

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