In Search of a Global, Godly Order: The Ecumenical Movement and the Origins of the League of Nations, 1908-1918

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation traces the origins of the League of Nations movement during the First World War to a coalescent international network of ecumenical figures and Protestant politicians. Its primary focus rests on the World Alliance for International Friendship Through the Churches, an organization that drew Protestant social activists and ecumenical leaders from Europe and North America. The World Alliance officially began on August 1, 1914 in southern Germany to the sounds of the first shots of the war. Within the next three months, World Alliance members began League of Nations societies in Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain and the United States. The World Alliance then enlisted other Christian institutions in its campaign, such as the International Missionary Council, the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., the Blue Cross and the Student Volunteer Movement. Key figures include John Mott, Charles Macfarland, Adolf Deissmann, W. H. Dickinson, James Allen Baker, Nathan Söderblom, Andrew Carnegie, Wilfred Monod, Prince Max von Baden and Lord Robert Cecil.

This dissertation is the first to examine the multinational, religious origins of the League of Nations. It shifts the focus off of the League’s most famous advocate, Woodrow Wilson, and places the designs of the League within a broader Protestant movement that recruited politicians and transformed churches into avenues for pro-League propaganda. The first three chapters outline the movement’s international scope and worldview, whereas the final four chapters focus on the movement in the national contexts of the United States, Britain, neutral Europe and Germany.

The World Alliance possessed two intertwined aims: firstly, a union of Christian churches that could complete the Christianization of the globe in their generation; and, secondarily, the establishment of a international federation of states, bound together by a free covenant before God, that would prevent Christendom from ever again descending into civil war. In the minds of the earliest advocates of the League of Nations, these two objectives were intertwined to the extent that many ecumenical organizations began to redefine themselves according to this new political orthodoxy, while the League movement became saturated in moral and pseudo-religious terms.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04122015-152144

Author James Michael Donahue
Advisor Mark Noll
Contributor Thomas Kselman, Committee Member
Contributor Mark Noll, Committee Chair
Contributor Julia Thomas, Committee Member
Contributor Doris Bergen, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline History
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2012-11-05

Submission Date 2015-04-12
  • United States of America

  • League of Nations

  • Woodrow Wilson

  • peace movement

  • Protestantism

  • ecumenical movement

  • World War I

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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