Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

Peace of Westphalia - 1648 - Peace of Münster
Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

The Peace of Westphalia is made up of three treaties signed in 1648 in Münster and Osnabrück, both in Westphalia. The Peace of Münster brought an end to the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands, as well as the independence of the Dutch Republic. The Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück put an end to the Thirty Years’ War between the Holy Roman Empire, France, Sweden, and their allies, which was fought mostly in what is now Germany and sparked by religious strife and a mutual desire for territorial expansion.

The Peace of Westphalia was compared to the United Nations Charter by Leo Gross, an international law and relations scholar, because it attempted “to establish something resembling world unity on the basis of states exercising untrammeled sovereignty over certain territories and subordinated to no earthly authority.” Historians credit the Peace of Westphalia with establishing a form of sovereignty free of Church power or a secular monarchy based on divine right. Although this secularization had little immediate impact, it did support republican forms of government throughout time, eventually leading to the political ideology of people-centered sovereignty.

The key principle of this new theory was that each state has equal sovereign rights, allowing for a balance of power among nations, which is known as “the basic constitutional doctrine of the law of nations” by international law professor Ian Brownlie. Reality, on the other hand, proved otherwise. Although the Peace appeared to stop religious warfare, historian Herbert Rowen writes that it gave way to “an interval of non-ideological wars, when aggrandizement and powerseeking ordinarily exhibited naked before men.” “The Peace of Westphalia could only be a ceasefire, and the diplomats’ compromises were ultimately as transitory as generals’ successes,” because of the disparity in real strength among states.

Tsar Alexis I, who had sided with Sweden against the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years’ War, issued the Sobornoe Ulozhenie, or Russian legal code, the following year, which William Butler, a noted expert on Russian law, described as “a watershed in Russian legal history, as consequential as the Peace of Westphalia was for European diplomacy and the law of nations.”

SEE ALSO:

On the Law of War and Peace (1625);

Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan 1651 – Modern Constitutionalism;

The E.U. and the Treaty of Paris (1951).

Sources:

Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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