The Peace of Westphalia (German: Westfälischer Friede) 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 and brought peace to the Holy Roman Empire, closing a calamitous period of European history that killed approximately eight million people.
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 each of the overlapping wars: the Peace Treaty of Münster and the Peace Treaty of Osnabrück. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) 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, Denmark, and certain Holy Roman principalities) allied with France, which was Catholic but strongly anti-Habsburg under King Louis XIV.
Joachim Whaley, a leading English-language historian of the Holy Roman Empire, mentions that later commentators such as Leibniz, Rousseau, Kant and Schiller eulogized the Peace of Westphalia as the first step towards a universal peace, but he points out that "their projections for the future should not be mistaken for descriptions of reality".
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 as Westphalian sovereignty.
Peace negotiations between France and the Habsburgs began in Cologne in 1641. 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.[page needed] In Hamburg and Lübeck, Sweden and the Holy Roman Empire negotiated the Treaty of Hamburg with the intervention of Richelieu. The Holy Roman Empire and Sweden declared that the preparations of Cologne and the Treaty of Hamburg were preliminaries of an overall peace agreement.
Dutch envoy Adriaan Pauw enters Münster around 1646 for the peace negotiations
The main peace negotiations took place in Westphalia, in the neighboring cities of Münster and Osnabrück. Both cities were maintained as neutral and demilitarized zones for the negotiations.
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, that was not part of the Peace of Westphalia. Münster had been, since its re-Catholicisation 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.
Sweden preferred to negotiate with the Holy Roman Empire in Osnabrück, controlled by the Protestant forces. Osnabrück was a bidenominational 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 then taken by Lutheran Sweden.
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 and ending, 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.
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.
Three separate treaties constituted the peace settlement.
The Peace of Münster was signed by the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of Spain on 30 January 1648, and was ratified in Münster on 15 May 1648.
Two complementary treaties were signed on 24 October 1648:
The Treaty of Münster (Instrumentum Pacis Monasteriensis, IPM), between the Holy Roman Emperor and France, along with their respective allies
The Treaty of Osnabrück (Instrumentum Pacis Osnabrugensis, IPO), between the Holy Roman Empire and Sweden, along with their respective allies.
Internal political boundaries
Map showing European borders in 1648
Holy Roman Empire in 1648
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 henceforth choose their own official religions. Catholics and Protestants were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition as an official religion. The independence of the Dutch Republic, which practiced religious toleration, also provided a safe haven for European Jews.
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 bullZelo Domus Dei.
The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:
All parties would recognise the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio). The options were Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism.
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.
It is often argued that the Peace of Westphalia resulted in a general recognition of the exclusive sovereignty of each party over its lands, people, and agents abroad, as well as responsibility for the warlike acts of any of its citizens or agents.
The Old Swiss Confederacy was formally recognised as independent from the Holy Roman Empire, after decades of de facto independence.
The Dutch Republic, which had declared its independence from Spain in 1581, was formally recognised as a fully independent state from both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.
To escape incorporation into Swedish Bremen-Verden, the city of Bremen had claimed Imperial immediacy. The emperor had granted this request and separated the city from the surrounding Bishopric of Bremen. Sweden launched the Swedish-Bremen wars in 1653/54 in a failed attempt to take the city.
The treaty ruled that the Dukes of Mecklenburg, owing their re-investiture to the Swedes, cede Wismar and the Mecklenburgian port tolls. While Sweden understood this to include the tolls of all Mecklenburgian ports, the Mecklenburgian dukes as well as the emperor understood this to refer to Wismar only.
Bavaria retained the Palatinate's vote in the Electoral College of the Holy Roman Empire, which it was granted by the imperial ban on the Elector Palatine Frederick V in 1623. The Prince Palatine, Frederick's son, was given a new, eighth electoral vote.
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 had begun during the Iberian Union between Spain and Portugal, as part of the Eighty Years' War, and went on until 1663. Nevertheless, the Peace of Westphalia did settle many outstanding European issues of the time.
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.[page needed] Although scholars have challenged the association with the Peace of Westphalia, the debate is still structured around the concept of Westphalian sovereignty.
However, scholars 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.[page needed]
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