Nobel Peace Prize: Definition & Winners

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Nobel Peace Prize is among the most respected awards in the world. In this lesson, we are going to check out the award, as well as some of its previous recipients.

The Nobel Peace Prize

There are millions of prizes offered around the world. However, only a few are internationally renowned. The Academy Awards. The title of world's fastest hot dog eater. Miss Universe. However, there is only one prize recognized around the world as the pinnacle of achievement in making the world a better place. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the person who has ''done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses''. That's a prize worth striving for.


The Nobel Peace Prize was one of five prizes created in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. Awarded for the first time in 1901, it is meant to honor the efforts of those who seek to expand peace and cooperation in this world. The Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo, an organization under the authority of the Norwegian Parliament. Still, the best way to understand and appreciate the Nobel Peace Prize is through the actions of some of its recipients.

Alfred Nobel

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let's start our list with one of the most famous activists in modern history. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s. He became the voice of nonviolent resolution in a time when American society was deeply and dangerously divided on the issue of racial segregation. In his fight, King was subject to persecution, imprisonment, and harassment, but his dedication to nonviolence was unwavering. For his role in fighting intolerance and hate with peace, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, just four years before his assassination.

Mother Teresa

Another well-known name among the Nobel laureates is Mother Teresa, the Eastern European nun who devoted her life to charity work in India. In a time when many in India were shunned through systems of inequality and poverty was rampant, Mother Teresa went to live among the poor and founded the Missionaries of Charity. Through their work, countless lives were aided. Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was later canonized by the Catholic Church in 2016.

The Red Cross

Not everyone knows this, but the Nobel Peace Prize doesn't actually have to be awarded to an individual. In fact, the prize has gone to an organization over 20 times. The group with the most Nobel Peace Prizes is the Red Cross; they have three. The organization was founded in the mid-19th century to provide aid to soldiers during peace time, breaking down borders between nations through international relief and aid. The Red Cross' founder, Henry Durant, won the very first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. The Red Cross itself won this award in 1917 for aiding hurt or abandoned soldiers of any nationality in World War I, in 1944 for serving prisoners of war in World War II, and in 1963 in honor of its centennial.

Jane Addams

Jane Addams is not a name everyone knows today, but in the early 20th century, she was a major figure. Addams was one of America's first major progressive voices, demanding direct action to solve the social problems created from America's 19th-century industrial boom. Addams was responsible for the first settlement house in the USA, an institution that brought middle-class women into the slums to interact with and aid poorer, mostly immigrant communities. Not only did this help the urban slums, but many historians see the settlement house movement as a major step towards a more active American female citizenry and the female suffrage movement. Addams was awarded the Peace Prize in 1931 for this and for her role in organizing women's groups that urged the Federal Government to remain neutral and peaceful in World War I.

Jane Addams

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