Klas Pontus Arnoldson


Klas Pontus Arnoldson (October 27, 1844-February 20, 1916), the Swedish journalist, pacifist, and proponent of Scandinavian unity, was a man of humble origin. Born at Göteborg, the son of a caretaker, he was obliged to discontinue his formal education in the public schools of Göteborg at the age of sixteen because of family financial difficulties after the death of his father in 1860. For the next twenty-one years he worked for a railroad, first as a clerk and then for ten years as a station inspector in Jonsered, Älgarås, and Tumba.

During these years, Arnoldson continued his studies, reading widely in history, religion, and philosophy; observed the political events of his day, especially the Danish-Austrian-Prussian War of 1864 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871; and evolved the ideas on religion, politics, and peace that he developed in detail in his voluminous writings.

Arnoldson was a liberal in theology. Familiar with the humanistic tenets of religious movements originating in the nineteenth century in Great Britain and in the New England section of the United States, he decried fanatic dogmatism and espoused essentially Unitarian views on truth, tolerance, freedom of the individual conscience, freedom of thought, and human perfectability. These views he published in the Nordiska Dagbladet [Northern Daily] which he edited for a short time in the early 1870’s, and in Sanningssökaren [The Truth Seeker], a monthly journal devoted to the exposition of «practical Christianity», as well as in books and pamphlets.

Arnoldson was also a liberal in political philosophy, committed to the practical application of the principle of democracy and individualism. From 1882 to 1887, as an elected member of the Parliament, he introduced legislation to extend the franchise and when it failed to pass, supported legislation which later succeeded; favored the extension of religious freedom; pursued an antimilitaristic policy; drafted a controversial resolution asking the government to investigate the possibility of guaranteed neutrality for Sweden1.

Outside Parliament Arnoldson carried on work for peace even more vigorously. Originally attracted to pacifism because of his repugnance for the wars of 1864 and 1870-1871 and because of his religious beliefs, Arnoldson was one of those instrumental in founding the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association in 1883, occupying the position of secretary of the society and becoming the editor of Tiden [The Times], a medium for peace information and free debate. Not at his best in a managerial capacity, Arnoldson resigned from Tiden in 1885 when it ran into financial difficulties, and from his office with the peace society in 1887 when he felt himself being overwhelmed by financial problems, the pressure of work, and emotional depression. Arnoldson edited Fredsvännen [The Friend of Peace] from 1885 to 1888 and the Nordsvenska Dagbladet [North Sweden Daily] from 1892 to 1894. For the most part, however, he kept himself free of administrative and political duties, devoting his energies to speaking and writing on behalf of arbitration. In 1888 he mounted a campaign for a popular petition addressed to the king favoring arbitration agreements with foreign nations. Extending his agitation to Norway in 1890, he spoke to receptive audiences throughout the country and provided some of the impetus for the Norwegian Parliament’s passage of a resolution on arbitration addressed to the king.

In the political controversy of 1895 between Norway and Sweden and in the final constitutional crisis which resulted in dissolution of their Union, Arnoldson sympathized with Norway. This was not popular in Sweden. When Arnoldson was named a Nobel peace laureate in 1908, some Swedish newspapers were incensed, saying that the award was an «outrage» against Sweden, a disgrace to «every Swedish man who takes pride in his national honor», and, to add injury to insult, was paid for with «Swedish money» given by a Swedish countryman. In reply, Løvland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, pointed out that Arnoldson’s candidacy had been proposed by the unanimous vote of the Swedish Group of the Interparliamentary Union2.

Throughout his life, Arnoldson complemented his day-to-day political activity by writing. In his early years he wrote mainly journalistic pieces; in the last three decades of his life, he produced some major works. An historical essay on international law, Är världsfred möjlig? [Is World Peace Possible? translated into English under the title of Pax mundi], appeared in 1890; Religionen i forskningens ljus [Religion in the Light of Research] in 1891; a history of the pacifist idea, Seklernas hopp [The Hope of the Centuries], in 1901. He also wrote polemical fiction, putting his pacifist message into novelistic and dramatistic form.

Although Arnoldson suffered from periods of illness throughout his life, he lived to be seventy-two, dying of a heart attack in Stockholm in 1916.

Selected Bibliography
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus, Maria Magdalena: Fredsberättelse. Stockholm, Bohlin, 1903.
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus, Neutralitetsfrågan. Stockholm, 1883.
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus, Pax mundi: A Concise Account of the Progress of the Movement for Peace by Means of Arbitration, Neutralization, International Law and Disarmament. Authorized translation from the Swedish. London, Swan Sonnenschein, 1892. (Är världsfred möjlig?: En historisk framställning af sträfvandena för lag och rätt mellan folken. Stockholm, Fröléen, 1890.)
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus, Religionen i forskningens ljus. Sundsvall, Forlagsforeningen Fria Ordet, 1891.
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus, Seklernas hopp: En bok om världfreden. Stockholm, Wilhelmsson, 1901.
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus, Unitarismens apostel: Fyra föreläsningar. Stockholm, Bjorck, 1882.
Svenskt biografiskt lexikon.
Svenson, Axel, En lifsgerning för freden: Några erinrande ord på K.P. Arnoldson sixtioårsdag den 27 oktober 1904. [Stockholm], 1904.

1. For an analysis of his position, see August Schou, Histoire de l’internationalisme III (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1963), pp. 517-518.

2. Oscar J. Falnes, Norway and the Nobel Peace Prize (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938), pp. 252-254.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1908

To cite this section
MLA style: Klas Pontus Arnoldson – Biographical. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2024. Mon. 26 Feb 2024. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1908/arnoldson/biographical/>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Nobel Prizes and laureates

Eleven laureates were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2023, for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from effective mRNA vaccines and attosecond physics to fighting against the oppression of women.

See them all presented here.

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.