International relations | War | Treaty

Peace of Westphalia and emergence of international relations

The treaty that laid foundation to modern international relations

- By Dibyak Kapali |

The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, Gerard ter Borch (II), 1648
The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, Gerard ter Borch (II), 1648

During our recent podcast on “International Relations’’ with Mr. Gaurab Shumsher Thapa, he mentioned the term “Peace of Westphalia” while explaining the history and origin of international relations as a discipline.

Here is a quick background.

The Peace of Westphalia — widely considered a milestone in modern international relations — refers to a series of treaties signed in 1648 between the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III and the various parties to the conflict, including German, France, Sweden, and the Dutch Republic in the German city of Münster and Osnabrück.

The treaties ended the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch and the German phase of the Thirty Years’ War — a religious struggle within the Holy Roman Empire that had strong political implications.

The treaties signed are considered to have established the principle of state sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of other states.

Recognizing the equality of all religions before the law, the treaties marked a significant departure from the previous religious wars that had torn Europe apart.

The Peace of Westphalia is often cited as a turning point in European history, as it marked the end of the old order and the beginning of a new era of nation-states.

Some of the key impacts on international relations and European history include:

Establishment of state sovereignty:

The treaties established the principle of state sovereignty, which recognized the independence and autonomy of individual states — it marked a significant departure from the previous feudal system, where the authority of monarchs and rulers was derived from divine right and other external sources. 

Recognition of religious diversity:

Recognizing the equality of all religions before the law, the treaties allowed for greater tolerance and diversity in religious practices, and paved the way for secularism and the separation of church and state from the previous religious wars that had torn Europe apart.

The emergence of the modern nation-state:

Paving the way for the emergence of the modern nation-state, as it established the boundaries and territories of individual states, the treaties laid the foundation for modern diplomacy, international law, and the balance of power. 

Dibyak Kapali is a researcher and a social media lead at the_farsight and a student of microbiology.

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