The princess at the conference: Science, pacifism, and Habsburg society

G. Somsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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2 Citations (Web of Science)


Historians are showing increasing interest in scientific internationalism, the notion that science transcends national differences and hence advances peace and cooperation. This notion became particularly popular in the decades around 1900, the heyday of the universal expositions and the so-called first era of globalization. In this article I argue that in order to properly historicize scientific internationalism, it is imperative to understand how actors imagined science to have pacifist effects, and to relate their technoscientific to their geopolitical imaginaries. To illustrate this, I analyze the 1911 novel Der Menschheit Hochgedanken (translated as When Thoughts Will Soar) by the famous Austrian pacifist Baroness Bertha von Suttner. It tells the story of a scientific conference whose participants, by the sheer brilliance of their thought, ward off war and preserve world peace. Relating the novel to von Suttner's own life experiences, I situate her internationalism in the social texture and international relations of the late Habsburg Empire. It appears that von Suttner mobilized notions of the pacific effects of science with an eye to preserving both the European system of states and the position of the aristocracy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0073275320977750
Pages (from-to)434-460
Number of pages27
JournalHistory of Science
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • aristocratic internationalism
  • bertha von suttner
  • late habsburg culture
  • science and pacifism
  • science fiction
  • scientific conferences
  • scientific internationalism
  • Bertha von Suttner
  • late Habsburg culture

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