The conventional history of nations, even continents, is a history of warfare. According to this view, all the important ideas and significant changes of humankind occured as part of an effort to win one violent, bloody conflict or another. This approach to history is only one of many examples of how societies promote warfare and glorify violence. But there have always been a few who have refused to fight. Governments have long regarded this minority as a danger to society and have imprisoned and abused them and encouraged their persecution. This was true of those who refused Europe s wars, who refused to fight for their king, who refused to fight for Napoleon as well as against him. It was true of Virginia Woolf s sister Vanessa and her husband Clive Bell outcasts in rural Sussex because they opposed World War I at a time when the British socialist movement described a bayonet as a weapon with a worker on each end.It was true of the first American draft dodger, a Menonite who believed in American independence but believed it was wrong to use violence and rejected the call of his local militia. It was true of the many abolitionists who had dedicated their lives to stopping slave
Mark Kurlansky is the bestselling author of Cod- A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (winner of the Glenfiddich Best Food Book Award), The Basque History of the World, Salt- A World History, 1968- The Year that Rocked the World, a short story collection The White Man in the Tree and a novel Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue (all published by Cape and Vintage). He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.