For centuries violent wars had raged in Europe. Harvests were destroyed, houses were plundered, families torn apart. Society was unsettled time and again. The raw images of the battlefield that through the invention of photography now also reached the home front, did serious damage to the idea that war was essential for defending the glory of king and country. And so, in the course of the 19th century, the peace ideal blossomed as never before. The political tensions and resulting threat of war on the threshold of the 20th century only added to the popularity of the spreading peace movement. Throughout Europe and America peace organizations were founded, inspired by the ideas of famous writers and pacifists such as Leo Tolstoy, Bertha von Suttner and Alfred Nobel.
The initiative of Czar Nicholas II to organize an international peace conference came at exactly the right moment. During the First Hague Peace Conference of 1899, 26 countries came together to speak about disarmament and about the possibility of international jurisdiction, which led to the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In 1907 a second peace conference was organized in The Hague, in which 44 countries participated.
The period in between these two conferences was not spent in idleness. A court that worked for world peace deserved an impressive and awe inspiring residence. By the time the second peace conference took place, the first stone of the palace could be laid. The building served as a residence to a judical institution, but at the same time strived to embody the dream for world peace that had been cherished for centuries. In the presence of the Dutch royal family, sponsor Andrew Carnegie and an international group of jurists, politicians and pacifists, the key of the Peace Palace was presented to the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the 28th of August 1913.[number of readers: 382]