Peace of Westphalia (1648)


Figure 1.--

The Peace of Westphalia ended the 30 Years War which ravaged much of Germany. The Treaty established the still conorstone of modern diplomacy that states are soverign. Before Westphalia there were other contending structures, most notably that of international religious organizations such as the Catholic Church. Religious passions subsided in Europe after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht. Waring factions did not abandon their commitment to their version of orthodoxy, but the motivation to force such orthodoxy on another state by force was larely abandoned. War was certainly not abandoned in Europe, but religion became an increasingly less important factor in the wars. This shift and the steady appearance of new Protestant denominations were undoubtedtly factors in the steady development of religious tolerartion within states, especially Protestant states. The Treaty established the still conorstone of modern diplomacy that states are soverign. Before Westphalia there were other contending structures, most notably the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. The Thirty Years War had profound implications for the nations of Europe. In many ways, the modern European state system emerged from the War. Much of the map of modern Europe as well as the religious make of Europe was determined by the Thirty Years War.

30 Years War (1618-48)

The Peace of Westphalia ended the 30 Years War which ravaged much of Germany. The Thirty Years War was the most bloody and destructive war ever fought in Europe until the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. It was not as the name suggests one single war lasting 30 years, but rather a series of related wars fought over that period. The War began in Germany (Holy Roman Empire) and gradually spread to much of the rest of Europe. It was actually a series of wars involving most European countries, but fought primarily in Germany. The war was exceedingly brutal, in part because of the religious passions of the Reformation. The struggle was between Catholic and Protestant princes aided by non-German coregilionalists. While initially a religious war, the fighting was complicated by dynastic rivalries and the desire of the Sweeds and French to curb the power of the German Holy Roman Empire dominated by the Hapsburgs. The War devestated Germany. It is believed that about 6 million civilians, mostly Germans, perished in the conflict. More Germans died in this War than in either World war I or II.

Treaties (1648)

The Treaty established the still conorstone of modern diplomacy that states are soverign. The Thirty Years War was one of the most destructive ever fought in Europe. It was also one of the most signifucant and the results helped shape Europe in ways that are still with us. The treaty ws not easily arrived at. Negotiations began in 1643, but the issues involved were difficult . Negotiations were conducted in two separate, but concurrent sessions at Münster and Osnabrück. The sessions resulted in two treaties which are collectively known as the Peace od Westphalia. The Treaties was finally signed 5 years later (1648). While signed by most of the combative powers, French and Swedish participation in the War had seriously weakened the control of the Hapsburgs on the Holy Roman Empire. Rather than coalese into a German nation state., the Empire became a loose confederation of sovering states and numerous small princely and religious principalities as well as free cities. It is at this time that France achieves control over Alsace which hd been part of the empire. France also gained control over several border forts. Swesen was awarded western Pomerania as well as the bishoprics of Bremen and Versun. The independence of the Nerherlands and Switzerland wre recognized. France and Spain continued fighting for more than a decade. These two countries finally ended the war with the Treaty of Pyrenees (1659). The Holy Roman Empire for much of the medieval era was the dominant power in Europe. The devestation of Germany and the weakening of the Empire left France as the dominant power in Europe.

Religion

The Treaty of Westphalia essentially settled the religious issue. It was the last attempt by the Cathloic Hapsburgs to destroy Protestantism. Westphalia confirmed the predominance of Catholicism in southern Germany and of Protestantism in northern Germany. It also confirmed the principle of the Peace of Augsburg (1555) that Catholic and Lutheran princes could determine the religion adopted in their territory. Princes could also choose Calvinism. his did not mean freedom of religion, but it was a step toward it. Before the Peace of Westphalia there were other contending structures, most notably that of international religious organizations such as the Catholic Church. Religious passions subsided in Europe after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht. Waring factions did not abandon their commitment to their version of orthodoxy, but the motivation to force such orthodoxy on another state by force was larely abandoned. War was certainly not abandoned in Europe, but religion became an increasingly less important factor in the wars. This shift and the steady appearance of new Protestant denominations were undoubtedtly factors in the steady development of religious tolerartion within states, especially Protestant states. The religious issue had been a major factor in beginning the Thirty Years War.

Principles

The Treaty established the still conorstone of modern diplomacy that states are soverign. Before Westphalia there were other contending structures, most notably the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church.

National

The Thirty Years War had profound implications for the nations of Europe. In many ways, the modern European state system emerged from the War. Much of the map of modern Europe as well as the religious make of Europe was determined by the Thirty Years War.
France: France was confirmed as the most powerful state in Europe, a situation that would endure until the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the unification of Germany. France with Swedish help stopped the Hapsburgs, who also had an imortant Italian possesions, from dominating Europe. France received most of Alsace on the west bank of the Rhine. Increasingly the Rhine was taking shape as the geographic division between France and Germany. France also received (as a result of the Treaty of the) parts of Flanders and Artois in the Spanish Netherlands as well as lands in the Pyrenees.
Germany: Germany was potenially the dominant country in Europe, but because of divisions within the Empire the Germany did not emerge as a unified country. The Austrian Habsburgs had failed to achieve Ferdinand's twin goals: to strengthen his authority within the Empire and to destroy Protestantism . The Empire continued until the Napoleonic Wars, but it was essentially a historical fiction rather than a real German political entity. The Austrian Hapsburgs did, however, achieve some dynastic successes. Bohemia was now part of the Hapsburg patrimony and within Bohemia Protestantism was destroyed as well as the power of the old nobility. The Hapsburgs with Austria and Bohemia, geographically were placed to expand east in the Balkans, south in Italy, or to continue toinfluence the other German states in the Empire. The individual German states within the Empire maintained the right to make war and conclude alliances. The German states varied greatly in size andpower. The Germans would not unify until 1870. The Elector of Brandenburg emerged as te most important of the northern Protestant princes. Brandenburg which evolved into Prussia emerged as a northern Protestant counter to southern Catholics led by the Hapsburgs. Prussia received part of Pomerania a well a some secularized bishoprics. The War was a turning point in the rise of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Bavaria retained the upper Palatinate and the title of elector. The War was, however, the last major role that Bavaria was to play in German history. The Lower Palatinate was restored to Frederick's son as wll as the title of elector--requiring the creation of an eighth electorate.
Switzerland: The independence of Switzerland was recognized from Austrian (Hapsburg) rule and its separation from the Empire.
The Netherlands: The independence of the Netherlands from Spain was confirmed. While the Dutch were now independent in the north. Spain retained its hold in the south which was called the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium). Dutch independence would next be challenged by France and Louis XIV.
Sweden: Sweden obtained part of Pomerania and the bishoprics of Bremen and Verden.

Sources

McNeil, William H. The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1991), 828p.\par






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Created: 5:14 AM 1/21/2006
Last updated: 5:14 AM 1/21/2006