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A Violent Peace

Media, Truth, and Power at the League of Nations

A Violent Peace

Media, Truth, and Power at the League of Nations

The newly born League of Nations confronted the post-WWI world—from growing stateless populations to the resurgence of right-wing movements—by aiming to create a transnational, cosmopolitan dialogue on justice. As part of these efforts, a veritable army of League personnel set out to shape “global public opinion,” in favor of the postwar liberal international order. Combining the tools of global intellectual history and cultural history, A Violent Peace reopens the archives of the League to reveal surprising links between the political use of modern information systems and the rise of mass violence in the interwar world. Historian Carolyn N. Biltoft shows how conflicts over truth and power that played out at the League of Nations offer broad insights into the nature of totalitarian regimes and their use of media flows to demonize a whole range of “others.”
An exploration of instability in information systems, the allure of fascism, and the contradictions at the heart of a global modernity, A Violent Peace paints a rich portrait of the emergence of the age of information—and all its attendant problems.

216 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Culture Studies

History: General History, History of Ideas


"Historians usually remember the League of Nations—if at all—for its failure to prevent World War II. Historian Biltoft has a different, far more interesting story to tell. She examines the League as a creator of the news—even 'truth'—and a restless promotor of liberalism in the increasing illiberal interwar world. In this short but illuminating work, Biltoft argues that the League attempted to 'rebrand the world' to encourage discussion rather than war, provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, and ultimately create a new, healthier—and less violent—international order. . . . For an age still plagued by 'fake news' from Moscow to Florida, this book is required reading. . . . Highly recommended."


"This book is short, but its length belies the complexity and range of its ambition. A Violent Peace tackles the technological and cultural ruptures of the interwar era in truly original fashion, making a valuable addition to the growing literature assessing the League in its own right as an experiment in international order."

International Affairs

"Carolyn Biltoft's A Violent Peace provides a useful, timely, and poetic overview of interwar preoccupations with truth and reality, and of their consequences for people's lives then and now. . . . This book offers a compelling picture of the period and the issues under examination and will inspire others to pursue the vital avenues of historical inquiry it undertook. . . . Truly, any reader interested in such debates would find this book useful and likely be impressed by its erudition, clarity, and flair."

Canadian Journal of History

“With bold originality and a keen eye for the telling detail, Biltoft recasts the history of the League of Nations, dedicated to elevating the word over the sword, as a quest for symbolic capital in the chaotic interwar world. Focusing on questions of language, money, and the control of information flows, she shows how the challenges faced by the League continue to bedevil us today.”

Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley

“Fascinating and utterly original, A Violent Peace is an impressive study of superior scholarship. Biltoft offers a fresh perspective on this topic by shifting the lens from an investigation into the geopolitical coordinates of the League of Nations to the more ephemeral but equally important role of media and communication strategies that underlay the project. Accessible to both specialists and generalists, this exciting book will find a wide cross-section of readers in history, critical theory, government, and beyond.”

Ethan Kleinberg, Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Preface: Truth, Lies, and Violence, Then and Now

1. As Seen at the League of Nations: Global Media, Competing Truths, and the Allure of Fascism

2. Rebranding the World (Picture)

3. On True and False Tongues

4. Fabricating Currencies: Paper, Gold, and Other Facsimiles

5. Fiat Lux? False News and Hidden Flesh

6. The Word and the Sword Revisited

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