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Peace of Westphalia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peace of Westphalia
Treaties of Osnabrück and Münster
Münster, Historisches Rathaus -- 2014 -- 6855.jpg
The historic town hall of Münster where the treaty was signed
TypePeace treaty
Signed24 October 1648
LocationOsnabrück and Münster, Westphalia, Holy Roman Empire

The Peace of Westphalia (German: Westfälischer Friede, pronounced [vɛstˈfɛːlɪʃɐ ˈfʁiːdə] (listen)) is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück and Münster. They ended the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) and brought peace to the Holy Roman Empire, closing a calamitous period of European history that killed approximately eight million people. Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III, the kingdoms of France and Sweden, and their respective allies among the princes of the Holy Roman Empire, participated in the treaties.[1]

The negotiation process was lengthy and complex. Talks took place in two cities, because each side wanted to meet on territory under its own control. A total of 109 delegations arrived to represent the belligerent states, but not all delegations were present at the same time. Two treaties were signed to end the war in the Empire: the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück.[2][3] These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War in the Holy Roman Empire, with the Habsburgs (rulers of Austria and Spain) and their Catholic allies on one side, battling the Protestant powers (Sweden and certain Holy Roman principalities) allied with France (though Catholic, strongly anti-Habsburg under King Louis XIV).

Several scholars of international relations have identified the Peace of Westphalia as the origin of principles crucial to modern international relations,[4] collectively known as Westphalian sovereignty. However, some historians have argued against this, suggesting that such views emerged during the nineteenth and twentieth century in relation to concerns about sovereignty during that time.[5]

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Europe had been battered by both the Thirty Years' War and the Eighty Years' War, exacting a heavy toll in money and lives. The Eighty Years' War was a prolonged struggle for the independence of the Protestant-majority Dutch Republic (the modern Netherlands), supported by Protestant-majority England, against Catholic-dominated Spain and Portugal. The Thirty Years' War was the most deadly of the European wars of religion, centred on the Holy Roman Empire. The war, which developed into four phases, included a large number of domestic and foreign players, siding either with the Catholic League or the Protestant Union (later Heilbronn League). The Peace of Prague (1635) ended most religious aspects of the war, and the French–Habsburg rivalry took over prominence. With between 4.5 million and 8 million dead in the Thirty Years' War alone, and decades of constant warfare, the need for peace became increasingly clear.[6]


Peace negotiations between France and the Habsburg Emperor began in Cologne in 1636. These negotiations were initially blocked by Cardinal Richelieu of France, who insisted on the inclusion of all his allies, whether fully sovereign countries or states within the Holy Roman Empire.[7][page needed] In Hamburg, Sweden, France, and the Holy Roman Empire negotiated a preliminary peace in December 1641.[8] They declared that the preparations of Cologne and the Treaty of Hamburg were preliminaries of an overall peace agreement.[citation needed]

Dutch envoy Adriaan Pauw enters Münster around 1646 for the peace negotiations
Dutch envoy Adriaan Pauw enters Münster around 1646 for the peace negotiations

The main peace negotiations took place in Westphalia, in the neighbouring cities of Münster and Osnabrück. Both cities were maintained as neutral and demilitarized zones for the negotiations.[8]

In Münster, negotiations took place between the Holy Roman Empire and France, as well as between the Dutch Republic and Spain who on 30 January 1648 signed a peace treaty ending the Eighty Years' War[9] that was not part of the Peace of Westphalia.[10] Münster had been, since its re-Catholicism in 1535, a strictly mono-denominational community. It housed the Chapter of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster. Only Roman Catholic worship was permitted, while Calvinism and Lutheranism were prohibited.[citation needed]

Sweden preferred to negotiate with the Holy Roman Empire in Osnabrück, which was controlled by Protestant forces. Osnabrück was a bi-denominational Lutheran and Catholic city, with two Lutheran churches and two Catholic churches. The city council was exclusively Lutheran, and the burghers mostly so, but the city also housed the Catholic Chapter of the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück and had many other Catholic inhabitants. Osnabrück had been subjugated by troops of the Catholic League from 1628 to 1633 and was then taken by Lutheran Sweden.[11]


Sebastian Dadler undated medal (1648), Christina of Sweden, portrait with feathered helmet right. Obverse
Sebastian Dadler undated medal (1648), Christina of Sweden, portrait with feathered helmet right. Obverse
The reverse of this medal: Christina of Sweden as Minerva holding an olive branch in her left arm and grasping the tree of knowledge with her right hand.
The reverse of this medal: Christina of Sweden as Minerva holding an olive branch in her left arm and grasping the tree of knowledge with her right hand.

The peace negotiations had no exact beginning or end, because the 109 delegations never met in a plenary session. Instead, various delegations arrived between 1643 and 1646 and left between 1647 and 1649. The largest number of diplomats were present between January 1646 and July 1647.[12]

Delegations had been sent by 16 European states, 66 Imperial States representing the interests of 140 Imperial States, and 27 interest groups representing 38 groups.[13]


Two separate treaties constituted the peace settlement:

  • The Treaty of Münster (Instrumentum Pacis Monasteriensis, IPM),[15][16] between the Holy Roman Emperor and France, along with their respective allies
  • The Treaty of Osnabrück (Instrumentum Pacis Osnabrugensis, IPO),[17][18] between the Holy Roman Emperor and Sweden, along with their respective allies


Internal political boundaries

The power asserted by Ferdinand III was stripped from him and returned to the rulers of the Imperial States. The rulers of the Imperial States could again choose their own official religions. Catholics and Lutherans were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition as an official religion.[19][20] The independence of the Dutch Republic, which practiced religious toleration, also provided a safe haven for European Jews.[21]

The Holy See was very displeased at the settlement, with Pope Innocent X calling it "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time" in the bull Zelo Domus Dei.[22][23]


The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  • All parties would recognise the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince had the right to determine the religion of his own state (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio). However, the ius reformandi was removed: Subjects were no longer forced to follow the conversion of their ruler. Rulers were allowed to choose between Catholicism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism.[19][24]
  • 1 January 1624 was defined as the normative date for determining the dominant religion of a state. All ecclesiastical property was to be restored to the condition of 1624. Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in private, as well as in public during allotted hours.[24]
  • France and Sweden were recognised as guarantors of the imperial constitution with a right to intercede.[25]

Territorial adjustments


Allegory of the Peace of Westphalia, by Jacob Jordaens.
Allegory of the Peace of Westphalia, by Jacob Jordaens.

The treaties did not entirely end conflicts arising out of the Thirty Years' War. Fighting continued between France and Spain until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The Dutch-Portuguese War that had begun during the Iberian Union between Spain and Portugal, as part of the Eighty Years' War, went on until 1663. Nevertheless, the Peace of Westphalia did settle many outstanding European issues of the time.[citation needed]

Westphalian sovereignty

Some scholars of international relations have identified the Peace of Westphalia as the origin of principles crucial to modern international relations, including the inviolability of borders and non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. This system became known in the literature as Westphalian sovereignty.[32][page needed] Most modern historians have challenged the association of this system with the Peace of Westphalia, calling it the 'Westphalian Myth.'[33] They have challenged the view that the modern European states system originated with the Westphalian treaties. The treaties do not contain anything in their text about religious freedom, sovereignty, or balance of power that can be construed as international law principles. Constitutional arrangements of the Holy Roman Empire are the only context in which sovereignty and religious equality are mentioned in the text, but they are not new ideas in this context. While the treaties do not contain the basis for the modern laws of nations themselves, they do symbolize the end of a long period of religious conflict in Europe.[34]

See also


  1. ^ Clodfelter, Micheal (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492–2015. McFarland. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7864-7470-7.
  2. ^ "APW Einführung". Archived from the original on 23 October 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Peace of Westphalia | Definition, Map, Results, & Significance". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 6 August 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  4. ^ Patton, Steven (2019). "The Peace of Westphalia and it Affects on International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy". The Histories. Archived from the original on 4 February 2021. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  5. ^ Osiander, Andreas (2001). "Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth". International Organization. 55 (2): 251–287. doi:10.1162/00208180151140577. JSTOR 3078632. S2CID 145407931. Archived from the original on 21 August 2021. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  6. ^ Elliott, J.H. (2009). Spain, Europe & the Wider World, 1500-1800. Yale University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780300145373.
  7. ^ Croxton, Derek (2013). Westphalia: The Last Christian Peace. Palgrave. ISBN 978-1-137-33332-2. Archived from the original on 16 January 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b Wilson, Peter H. (2009). Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War. Allen Lane. p. 632. ISBN 978-0-7139-9592-3.
  9. ^ Lesaffer, Randall (23 July 2007). "Private Property in the Dutch-Spanish Peace Treaty of Münster (30 January 1648)". SSRN 1002389. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  10. ^ Konrad Repgen, 'Negotiating the Peace of Westphalia: A Survey with an Examination of the Major Problems', In: 1648: War and Peace in Europe: 3 vols. (Catalogue of the 26th exhibition of the Council of Europe, on the Peace of Westphalia), Klaus Bußmann and Heinz Schilling (eds.) on behalf of the Veranstaltungsgesellschaft 350 Jahre Westfälischer Friede, Münster and Osnabrück: no publ., 1998, 'Essay Volume 1: Politics, Religion, Law and Society', pp. 355–72, here pp. 355 seq.
  11. ^ Schiller, Frederick. "The Thirty Years War, Complete".
  12. ^ Cobban, Helena (8 May 2021). "1648: Peace of Westphalia sets inter-state rules for >370 years". Just World News. Archived from the original on 26 October 2022. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  13. ^ Konrad Repgen, "Negotiating the Peace of Westphalia: A Survey with an Examination of the Major Problems", In: 1648: War and Peace in Europe: 3 vols. (Catalogue of the 26th exhibition of the Council of Europe, on the Peace of Westphalia), Klaus Bußmann and Heinz Schilling (eds.) on behalf of the Veranstaltungsgesellschaft 350 Jahre Westfälischer Friede, Münster and Osnabrück: no publ., 1998, 'Essay Volume 1: Politics, Religion, Law and Society', pp. 355–372, here p. 356.
  14. ^ Sonnino, Paul (2009). Mazarin's Quest: The Congress of Westphalia and the Coming of the Fronde. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-04386-2. Archived from the original on 16 January 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Digital modern German text Treaty of Münster". 25 March 2014. Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  16. ^ Westfälischer Friede – Vertrag von Münster – Original German text Treaty of Münster digitised on German Wikisource
  17. ^ "Digital modern German text Treaty of Osnabrück". 25 March 2014. Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  18. ^ Westfälischer Friede – Vertrag von Osnabrück – Original German text Treaty of Osnabrück digitised on German Wikisource
  19. ^ a b Treaty of Münster 1648
  20. ^ Barro, R. J. & McCleary, R. M. "Which Countries have State Religions?" (PDF). University of Chicago. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 August 2006. Retrieved 7 November 2006.
  21. ^ "This day, Mary 15, in Jewish history". Cleveland Jewish News. Archived from the original on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  22. ^ The incipit of this bull, meaning "Zeal of the house of God", quotes from Psalm 69:9: "For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me."
  23. ^ Larry Jay Diamond; Marc F. Plattner; Philip J. Costopoulo (2005). World religions and democracy. p. 103.
  24. ^ a b "The Peace of Westphalia" (PDF). University of Oregon. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  25. ^ Mary Fulbrook A Concise History of Germany, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 60.
  26. ^ Böhme, Klaus-R (2001). "Die sicherheitspolitische Lage Schwedens nach dem Westfälischen Frieden". In Hacker, Hans-Joachim (ed.). Der Westfälische Frieden von 1648: Wende in der Geschichte des Ostseeraums (in German). Kovač. p. 35. ISBN 3-8300-0500-8.
  27. ^ Böhme (2001), p. 36.
  28. ^ Böhme (2001), p. 37.
  29. ^ a b c Böhme (2001), p. 38.
  30. ^ Whaley, Joachim (24 November 2011), "Germany and the Holy Roman Empire in 1500", Germany and the Holy Roman Empire Volume I: Maximilian I to the Peace of Westphalia, 1493-1648, Oxford University Press, pp. 623–624, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198731016.003.0002, ISBN 978-0-19-873101-6, archived from the original on 16 January 2023, retrieved 28 April 2022
  31. ^ Gross, Leo (1948). "The Peace of Westphalia, 1648–1948". American Journal of International Law. 42 (1): 20–41 [p. 25]. doi:10.2307/2193560. JSTOR 2193560. S2CID 246010450.
  32. ^ Henry Kissinger (2014). "Introduction and Chpt 1". World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-241-00426-5.
  33. ^ Osiander, Andreas (2001). "Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth". International Organization. 55 (2): 251–287. doi:10.1162/00208180151140577. ISSN 1531-5088. S2CID 145407931.
  34. ^ Randall Lesaffer (2014). "Peace treaties from Lodi to Westphalia". Peace Treaties and International Law in European History: From the Late Middle Ages to World War One. Cambridge. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-511-21603-9.

Further reading

  • Croxton, Derek, and Anuschka Tischer. The Peace of Westphalia: A Historical Dictionary (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002).
  • Croxton, Derek (1999). "The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and the Origins of Sovereignty". International History Review. 21 (3): 569–591. doi:10.1080/07075332.1999.9640869.
  • Mowat, R. B. History of European Diplomacy, 1451–1789 (1928) pp 104–14 online
  • Schmidt, Sebastian (2011). "To Order the Minds of Scholars: The Discourse of the Peace of Westphalia in International Relations Literature1". International Studies Quarterly. 55 (3): 601–623. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00667.x. Historiography.

External links

This page was last edited on 28 May 2023, at 11:00
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