Randal Cremer

Speed read

Sir William Randal Cremer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his longstanding and devoted efforts in favour of the ideas of peace and arbitration.

Randal Cremer
Randal Cremer Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Full name: William Randal Cremer
Born: 18 March 1828, Fareham, United Kingdom
Died: 22 July 1908, London, United Kingdom

He advocated negotiation

William Randal Cremer was forced to seek labour from the age of 12, starting at a shipyard and later as a carpenter. His interest in politics emerged early on, and he became a key figure in the trade union movement. He believed that negotiation and arbitration could prevent the outbreak of war. For over 20 years, Cremer represented the liberal workers in Parliament, courageously advocating peace at a time when Great Britain was the world’s leading imperialist. He strongly criticised the government during the bloody South African Boer War (1899-1902). Cremer viewed contact with parliamentarians in other countries as essential. He took the initiative to establish the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1889. This organisation remains a forum for parliamentarians from all over the world, and is one of Cremer’s major achievements.

"The world has passed through a long night of tribulation and suffering, millions of our fellow creatures have been sacrificed to the demon of war; their blood has saturated every plain and dyed every ocean. But courage, friends, courage! The darkness is ending, a new day is dawning, and the future is ours."

- From Randal Cremer’s Nobel Lecture 13 January 1905. Quoted from Les Prix Nobel.

Inter-Parliamentary Union
Founded in 1889 to bring together representatives from various national assemblies for annual debates. Headquartered in Geneva. Works for the peaceful resolution of conflict between nations. Addresses topics such as disarmament, environmental protection, gender equality and current world conflicts.

The pauper who became a knight

William Randal Cremer was raised in poverty in the small town of Fareham, near Portsmouth. He was only a young boy when his father abandoned his family, leaving his mother to feed and support three children. Cremer never forgot his background. In 1906, he declined the King’s offer of knighthood. He changed his mind a year later, however, seeing no reason why a representative of the working class should not receive such an honour. Cremer’s acceptance came with certain conditions: he attended the ceremony in ordinary civilian attire and, as a long-time pacifist, he did not bear a sword.

"There is not a man in this House who will now declare that the Crimean War was a just one, or one that could not have been easily avoided. I am perfectly certain that a rude awakening will come with regard to the South African War."

- William Randal Cremer in 'Parliament against the Boer War', autumn 1900. Quoted from Howard Evans: 'Sir Randal Cremer – his life and work'. London 1909 223.

The IAL – Cremer’s triumph

In 1870, Cremer helped to found the International Arbitration League, a peace organisation that he headed until his death in 1908. He donated all of his peace prize money to the IAL. The IAL arranged rallies, lectures and conferences to spread its clear message: arbitration was the most appropriate tool for preventing war. When the union between Norway and Sweden was dissolved by peaceful means in 1905, Cremer was elated. He described the peace treaty, which contained provisions on arbitration, as a masterpiece.

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To cite this section
MLA style: Randal Cremer – Speed read. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Sun. 24 Sep 2023. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1903/cremer/speedread/>

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