Peace of Westphalia

The term Peace of Westphalia refers to the two peace treaties of Osnabrück and Münster, signed on May 15 and October 24 of 1648 respectively, which ended both the Thirty Years’ War in Germany and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands. The treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III (Habsburg), the Kingdoms of Spain, France and Sweden, the Dutch Republic and their respective allies among the princes of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Peace of Westphalia resulted from the first modern diplomatic congress and initiated a new order in central Europe based on the concept of state sovereignty. Until 1806, the regulations became part of the constitutional laws of the Holy Roman Empire. The Treaty of the Pyrenees, signed in 1659, ended the war between France and Spain and is often considered part of the overall accord.

RESULTS

Internal political boundaries

A simplified map of Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

A simplified map of Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

The power taken by Ferdinand III in contravention of the Holy Roman Empire’s constitution was stripped and returned to the rulers of the German states. This rectification allowed the rulers of the German states to independently decide their religious worship. Protestants and Catholics were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition. [1] [2]

[edit] Tenets

The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  • All parties would now recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, by which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio). [1] [2]
  • Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will. [1]
Holy Roman Empire in 1648.

Holy Roman Empire in 1648.

There were also territorial adjustments:

  • The independence of the city of Bremen was clarified.
  • Barriers to trade and commerce erected during the war were abolished, and ‘a degree’ of free navigation was guaranteed on the Rhine. [3]

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