Frédéric Passy Biography

Frederic Passy, an economist and peace activist, was a pioneer in promoting the idea that nations could achieve peace through free trade. He was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize alongside Henri Durant, the founder of the Red Cross. Coming from a family of civil servants with a history of government involvement in France, Passy was inspired by his elders and entered politics to advocate for his own beliefs in peace and harmony through free trade. He greatly admired renowned economists like Richard Cobden and firmly believed that when nations became partners in joint endeavors, the likelihood of conflict would diminish. Passy dedicated himself to spreading his message through extensive lectures and writings, traveling across France to engage with audiences in cities and universities.

Quick Facts

  • French Celebrities Born In May Died At Age: 90
  • Economists
  • Peace Activists
  • Died on: June 12, 1912
  • Place of death: Neuilly-sur-Seine
  • City: Paris
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Inter-Parliamentary Union, Ligue internationale de la paix

Childhood & Early Life

Frederic Passy was born in Paris, France, on May 20, 1822 to Felix Passy and Marie-Louis-Pauline Salleron. His uncle Hippolyte Passy was a prominent politician. Passy initially studied to become a lawyer and practiced law for a few years before entering politics.


Passy joined the State Council as an accountant in 1846 and worked there until 1849. After Louis Napoleon’s coup d’état, he withdrew from politics and became a professional economist in 1857. He began teaching political economy in Paris and the provinces in 1860. Passy’s work on international peace started with the Crimean War in 1853-1856. His essays and lectures in 1857 brought him fame throughout the country. He advocated for peace to prevent a war between France and Prussia over Luxembourg in 1867. In 1868, he founded the International and Permanent League of Peace, dedicated to preventing future wars between countries. Passy became a member of the Academie des sciences morales et politiques in 1877 and served as the President of the Society of Political Economy for 70 years. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1881 and 1885 but was defeated in 1889.

French Peace Society and International Arbitration

Passy formed the first French Peace Society and reorganized the disbanded league under the name Societe francaise des amis de la paix. In 1889, it became the French Society for International Arbitration. Passy successfully brokered a peace between the Netherlands and France over the border concerning French Guiana and Surinam. In 1888, he helped form the Inter-Parliamentary Union and became one of the presidents. He also organized a meeting between French deputies and British parliamentarians to discuss international arbitration. Passy taught political economy at various colleges from 1881 to 1902 and wrote numerous books and articles.

Major Works

Passy’s essays titled ‘Melanges economics’ brought him recognition in the field of political economics. He published an essay titled ‘Pour la paix’ in 1909, chronicling all the peace and arbitration organizations he had been associated with during his lifetime.

Awards & Achievements

Passy was honored with the Legion of Honor in 1877. In 1901, he was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross Society.

Personal Life & Legacy

Frederic Passy passed away at the age of 90 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France on June 12, 1912. He is regarded as the ‘Dean’ of the movement for international peace and arbitration. Passy dedicated his life to bringing about peace and resolving conflicts through negotiation.

Humanitarian Work

Passy spent his life working towards peace, trying to prevent wars and conflicts. He believed in bringing warring sides to the negotiating table to avoid hostilities.


During the conflict between Norway and Sweden in 1905, Passy stated that a peaceful solution would be more satisfying than receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

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