The Peace of Westphalia

Compose a 2250 words assignment on the notion that the sovereign territorial state came to dominate international politics following the Peace of Westphalia is a myth. Needs to be plagiarism free! Having begun in May 1618, the series of wars involving the Austrian Monarchy, the Holy Roman Empire and practically the whole Europe, which became known as the Thirty years’ War, was brought to an end by the Treaty of Westphalia, aka the Westphalian settlement – complex two-part parallel negotiations concluded in October 1648 (Williams, 1980. Watson, 1992).

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Osiander (2001) points out that, according to the standard view, the Thirty Years’ War had been a struggle between two main parties. On the one side there were the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish King, both being members of the Habsburg dynasty and loyal to the Pope and the Catholic Church (Osiander, 2001). On the other side there appeared the protestant kings of Denmark and Sweden, the King of France, Protestant German princes, the Dutch Republic etc., who presumably rejected the imperial power, along with the authority of the Pope, defending instead the sovereignty of all states (Osiander, 2001. Watson, 1992).

The end of the Thirty Years’ War, as marked by the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, is widely regarded as the start point for of the international system (Osiander, 2001). Gross (1948), for example, writes that the Peace of Westphalia has had a lasting influence on international law and policy for over three centuries. In other words, as Watson (1992) points out, the Westphalian settlement not only legitimised “a commonwealth of sovereign states”, being a triumph of the state “in control of its internal affairs and independent externally”, but also was held to provide a fundamental and comprehensive charter for Europe.
Nevertheless, there are rather different verdicts, like the one of Dame Veronica Wedgwood, stating that “the peace was totally ineffectual in settling the problems of Europe” (Watson, 1992). This paper reviews the achievements of the Treaty of Westphalia, which constituted the “Westphalian” system, or framework, with the concept of sovereignty at its core (Osiander, 2001), to establish whether it was so successful in bringing about a new world order that eventually brought about the birth of the United Nations. Historical Background The Holy Roman Empire was founded in the year 800 AD when the Frankish king, Charlemagne, was crowned by Pope Leo III (Wilson, 2011). Emperor Charlemagne greatly expanded the Empire’s territory to the east, especially along the Baltic shore. thus, by the late fifteenth century, the core area of the Empire covered that of modern Germany and Austria, as well as Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands (Wilson, 2011). The Empire formally included Switzerland – although its exact constitutional position had been a matter of certain controversy – as well as the kingdom of Bohemia (the territory of present-day Czech Republic) with its dependencies of Moravia, Lusatia and Silesia. along with Lorraine, Alsace and other areas to the west (Wilson, 2011). Additionally, the cities and principalities of Northern Italy constituted a region known as Imperial Italy, which was formally part of the Empire (Wilson, 2011). The Catholic Church and the Pope had played a vital role in the Holy Roman Empire from its very inception, being the supreme authority in religious matters (Wilson, 2011. Munck, 2005). After the death of Emperor Charlemagne, the vast territory of the Holy Roman Empire had been divided into separate regions, namely Germany, France, and Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands (Wilson, 2011. Munck, 2005). During the following centuries, the composition of the Holy Roman Empire had been a loose configuration of more than three hundred principalities, alongside nearly one thousand political units with quasi-autonomous power, including free imperial cities (Munck, 2005).

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