Bart de Ligt

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Bart de Ligt

Bartholomeus de Ligt (17 July 1883, Schalkwijk, Utrecht – 3 September 1938, Nantes) was a Dutch anarcho-pacifist[1] and antimilitarist. He is chiefly known for his support of conscientious objectors.

Life and work[edit]

His father was a Calvinist pastor. Following in his father's footsteps, he became a theology student at the University of Utrecht. While there, he was exposed to liberal thinking and Hegelian philosophy for the first time and, in 1909, became a member of the League of Christian Socialists. In 1910, he was appointed pastor of the Reformed Church at Nuenen, near Eindhoven in Brabant where van Gogh's father had been pastor 25 years before.

First anti-war activities[edit]

In 1914, de Ligt joined with fellow pastors A. R. de Jong and Truus Kruyt to write "The Guilt of the Churches", charging that the Christian establishment had been complicit in the events that produced World War I. Afterwards, all of his writings became forbidden literature for the Dutch armed forces. His impassioned sermons in support of conscientious objection resulted in his being banned from those parts of the Netherlands considered to be in the war zone.

In 1918 he resigned as pastor declaring that, because of his increasingly universalist approach to religion, he no longer considered himself to be specifically a Christian.[2]

Later activities[edit]

In 1918, De Ligt married the Swiss activist Catherina Lydia van Rossem, with whom he had a son.[a] He was imprisoned in 1921 for organizing a general strike to gain the release of Herman Groenendaal, a jailed conscientious objector who had gone on a hunger strike. Later that year, he founded the IAMB (International Anti-Militarism Bureau). As he was becoming more involved with the work of the League of Nations, in 1925 he moved to Geneva, where he remained for the rest of his life. However, De Ligt became sceptical about the League's efforts, viewing it as how the colonial powers maintained an unjust world order. De Ligt instead regarded the Brussels Congress Against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism, held in 1927 as more representative of the world's population.[3] At a meeting of the War Resisters International in 1934, he presented his now-famous "Plan of a Campaign Against All Wars and Preparation for War". (The full text of which may be found in The Conquest of Violence.) De Ligt also took a firm stand against fascism and Nazism in the 1930s.[2] During the 1930s, De Ligt also promoted the ideas of Simone Weil.[4]

De Ligt's ideas were especially influential in Britain; they strongly influenced the British No More War Movement.[5] Writing in the pacifist magazine Peace News, playwright R. H. Ward praised De Ligt as "the Gandhi of the West".[5]

De Ligt's last work was a biography of Desiderius Erasmus, whom Van Den Dungen argues De Ligt strongly identified with: "He recognized in Erasmus a kindred spirit who.. had fought,..not only against war and violence, but also for the idea of free thought and for the liberation of humanity".[3]

In 1938, after a brief illness, he collapsed from exhaustion and died at the railway station in Nantes.

The Conquest of Violence[edit]

The Conquest of Violence : an Essay on War and Revolution is a book written by De Ligt which deals with non-violent resistance in part inspired by the ideas of Gandhi.[6] The Conquest of Violence drew on British philosopher Gerald Heard's idea that human aggression had become "a useless evil" with the advent of industrialized warfare.[7] Anarchist historian George Woodcock reports that The Conquest of Violence "was read widely by British and American pacifists during the 1930s and led many of them to adopt an anarchistic point of view".[8]

Major writings[edit]

  • The Conquest of Violence : an Essay on War and Revolution, introduction by Aldous Huxley ; new introduction by Peter van den Dungen ; translated by Honor Tracy from the French text revised and enlarged by the author. Pluto ; Winchester, MA, USA : ISBN 1-85305-057-1
  • La Paix Créatrice; Histoire des Principes et des Tactiques de L'Action Directe Contre la Guerre, 2 vols., Paris, Marcell Riviere, (1934).
  • Erasmus, Arnhem, (1936).


  1. ^ Catherina Lydia De Ligt-Van Rossem (1892 - 1970) later became known for translating the work of Jung and Sartre into Dutch. See Suhr, M. (2003). Sartre. Kopstukken filosofie [Notable people in philosophy] (in Dutch) (1st ed.). Lemniscaat. p. 200. ISBN 978-90-5637-501-0. and Bernardini, Riccardo (2011). Jung a Eranos: Il progetto della psicologia complessa [Jung to Eranos: The project of complex psychology] (in Italian). Franco Angeli. p. 248. ISBN 978-88-568-5012-3.


  1. ^ Woodcock 1962, p. 437.
  2. ^ a b Noordegraff, Herman (2010). "De Ligt, Bartholomeus". In Young, Nigel. The Oxford international encyclopedia of peace. Oxford University Press. p. 549-550. ISBN 978-0-19-533468-5.
  3. ^ a b Van Den Dungen, Peter (1996). "Jacob ter Meulen and Bart de Ligt as Pioneers of Peace History". In Dyck, Harvey L.; Brock, Peter. The Pacifist Impulse in Historical Perspective. University of Toronto Press. p. 52-72. ISBN 978-0-8020-0777-3.
  4. ^ de Ligt, Bart (1939). Introduction to the Science of Peace. Peace Academy lectures. London: Peace Pledge Union. p. 30.
  5. ^ a b Ceadel, Martin (1980). Pacifism in Britain, 1914-1945: The defining of a faith. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-19-821882-1.
  6. ^ Ostergaard, Geoffrey. Resisting the Nation State. The pacifist and anarchist tradition. Gandhi's ideas were popularised in the West in books such as Richard Gregg's The Power of Nonviolence (1935), (34) and Bart de Ligt's The Conquest of Violence (1937).
  7. ^ Falby, Alison (2008). Between the pigeonholes : Gerald Heard, 1889-1971. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Pub. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-84718-555-6.
  8. ^ Woodcock, George (1962). Anarchism: a history of libertarian ideas and movements. Pelican books. Penguin Books.