Academics at war – Bertrand Russell and Cambridge

Jonathan Atkin

in A War of Individuals

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780719060700
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700105 | DOI:
Academics at war – Bertrand Russell and Cambridge

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The Cambridge mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was able to articulate with extraordinary clarity a fully humanistic opposition to the Great War. At times during the war's course, Russell was truly a man alone, despite his seemingly secure position in 1914 amidst the Cambridge University establishment. To Russell, armed conflict was ‘so irrational as to be literally unthinkable’. Although later in the war he might rethink and reshape his particular pacifism and his views on the pacifism of those around him, Russell's basic opposition to the war from the outbreak of hostilities was fundamental and stemmed directly from deep personal conviction. Russell was always distrustful of politics, especially during war. Once he realised that there was little chance of bringing an early end to the war, he commenced his work on the psychology behind not only the war in progress, but also war in general. For Russell, the ‘ideal’ of patriotism was only partial and inadequate, and hence not valid.

Keywords: Bertrand Russell; Great War; Cambridge University; pacifism; politics; psychology; patriotism

Chapter.  13640 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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