Peace of Westphalia

The Ratification of the Treaty of Münsterby  (1648)
The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster
by Gerard Terborch (1648)
Missing image
Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster
by Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1648

The Peace of Westphalia, also known as the treaties of Münster and Osnabrück, is the series of treaties that ended the Thirty Years' War and "officially" recognized the United Provinces and Swiss Confederation. The SpanishDutch treaty which ended the Eighty Years' War was signed on January 30, 1648. The treaty signed October 24 1648 comprehended the Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand III, the other German princes, France, and Sweden.



The peace negotiations were after initial talks held in the cities of Münster and Osnabrück, which lie about 50 km apart in the present day state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The alternative of Münster and Osnabrück favoured by Sweden (Hamburg and Cologne being the French alternatives). The two locations were needed as the Protestant and Catholic leaders refused to meet each other. The city of Münster was used by the Catholics, while Osnabrück was used by the Protestants. The Treaty of the Pyrenees ending the war between France and Spain is also often considered part of the treaty.


The results of the treaty were wide ranging. Among other things, the Netherlands gained independence from Spain, ending the Eighty Years' War, and Sweden gained Pomerania, Wismar, Bremen and Verden. The power of the Holy Roman Emperor was broken, and the rulers of the German states were again able to determine the religion of their lands. The treaty also gave Calvinists legal recognition. Three new great Powers arose from this peace: Sweden, the United Provinces and France. Sweden's time as a Great Power was to be short lived, however.

The majority of the treaty can be attributed to the work of Cardinal Mazarin who was de facto leader of France at the time. France came out of the war in a far better position than any other Power and was able to dictate much of the treaty.

Another important result of the treaty was it laid rest to the idea of the Holy Roman Empire having secular dominion over the entire Christian world. The nation-state would be the highest level of government, subservient to no others.


The major tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  • The Peace of Prague was incorporated into the Peace of Westphalia (which incorporated the Peace of Augsburg, though its landholdings date that was reestablished by the Peace of Prague was again reestablished from 1627 to 1624, which aided the Protestants. The Calvinists were thus recognized internationally, and the Edict of Restitution was again rescinded. The first Diet of Speyer was accepted internationally).
  • There were also territorial adjustments:
    • France got the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, Verdun, and all of Alsace except Strasbourg and Mulhouse. They also acquired a vote in the Imperial German Diet.
    • Sweden got Western Pomerania and the bishoprics of Bremen and Stettin. They also got control of the mouth of the Oder, Elbe, and Weser Rivers. They also acquired a vote in the Imperial German Diet.
    • Bavaria acquired a vote in the Imperial Council of Electors (which elected the Holy Roman Emperor).
    • Brandenburg (Prussia) got Eastern Pomerania, and the bishopric of Magdeburg.
    • Switzerland was recognized as a fully independent nation.
    • The Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands (Protestant Netherlands) was recognized as an independent nation (before its rebellion a century earlier, it had been a possession of Spain and thus a property of the Habsburg family).
    • The German states (about 360) were given the right to exercise their own foreign policy, but they could not wage war against the Holy Roman Emperor. The Empire as a whole still could wage wars and sign treaties.
    • the election of Roman emperor vivente imperatore (election of next emperor before the death of the one who actually rules) was banned.
    • The Palatinates (Pfalzgraviates of the Rhein) was divided between the re-established Elector Palatine Charles Louis (son and heir of Frederick V) and Elector-Duke Maximilian of Bavaria (thus it was split between the Protestants and the Catholics). Charles Louis obtained the Lower Palatinate (Rhenish Palatinate) and Maximilian kept the Upper Palatinate.


It is often said that the Peace of Westphalia initiated the modern fashion of diplomacy as it marked the beginning of the modern system of nation-states (or "Westphalian states"). Subsequent wars were not about issues of religion, but rather revolved around issues of state. This allowed Catholic and Protestant Powers to ally, leading to a number of major realignments.

Modern views

In 1998 on a Symposium on the Political Relevance of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, then NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said that "humanity and democracy [were] two principles essentially irrelevant to the original Westphalian order" and criticized that "the Westphalian system had its limits. For one, the principle of sovereignty it relied on also produced the basis for rivalry, not community of states; exclusion, not integration." [1] (

In 2001, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer referred to the Peace of Westphalia in his Humboldt Speech which argued that the system of European politics set up by Westphalia was obsolete: "The core of the concept of Europe after 1945 was and still is a rejection of the European balance-of-power principle and the hegemonic ambitions of individual states that had emerged following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a rejection which took the form of closer meshing of vital interests and the transfer of nation-state sovereign rights to supranational European institutions." [2] (

In the aftermath of the 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks, the terrorist network al-Qaida also declared that "the international system built-up by the West since the Treaty of Westphalia will collapse; and a new international system will rise under the leadership of a mighty Islamic state". [3] ( Also, it is often claimed that globalization is bringing an evolution of the international system past the sovereign Westphalian state.

See also

External links

de:Westfälischer Friede es:Paz de Westfalia eo:Vestfalia Paco fr:Traités de Westphalie it:Pace di Westfalia he:שלום וסטפליה nl:Vrede van Münster ja:ヴェストファーレン条約 no:Freden i Westfalen pt:Paz de Vestfália sv:Westfaliska freden zh:威斯特伐利亚和约


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