Did WWI Lead to Greater Internationalism? (worksheet)

"Certain great facts stand out which lead us to declare that this war is, in reality, the greatest forward step ever taken toward internationalism." William Merrill, 1919.

Photo of William P. Merrill from our archives

Andrew Carnegie devoted the later portion of his life to attempting to bring about world peace. He created the Church Peace Union (CPU) in February 1914 with the belief that church congregations could become the basis of a grass-roots movement to outlaw war. In a terrible irony, a few months later, World War I began.

Carnegie's passion for world peace lived beyond the war and the CPU (later the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs) continued to strive to achieve his utopian goal. The excerpt attached on the right sidebar from Chapter X of Christian Internationalism (1919), by William P. Merrill, president of the CPU, explains the mixture of despair and hope with which the trustees of the Church Peace Union reacted to the outbreak of World War I.

Through this excerpt, students can analyze whether countries, leaders, and/or organizations learned any constructive lessons from World War I. Did the war increase internationalism* as Merrill posits? Did the horrors of certain weapons such as chemical gas change the rules of war? What other policies, outlooks, or international orders changed as a result of World War I? What stayed the same?

This resource can also accompany a lesson on the League of Nations and be used as evidence for why some American groups would support the U.S. joining the international organization.

*Internationalism in the context of this piece refers to "international good-will, justice, and order," which includes but is not limited to international law

For more context on the piece, a longer excerpt of the chapter can be found here.