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Hoggie Lee, I 34009
Sogang GSIS
◈ Question
What is the significance of Peace of Westphalia as a new stage
in the evolution of international society? How does the postWestphalia era differ from the pre-Westphalia era?
The Pre-Westphalian Era
▪ The world was mostly organized into city-states, particularly in
the East Mediterranean region.
The Pre-Westphalian Era
▪ There were several empires such as Persian, Roman, Arab,
Chinese, Mogul, Mayan, Aztec and etc.
▪ Relations between political units were controlled within the
empire by the emperor or central authority.
>>Sovereignty did not exist during this period.
The Pre-Westphalian Era
▪ Different forms of supranational religious authority coexisted.
▪ Medieval Europe was composed of a complex mosaic of
subnational and transnational entities, all of which claimed
various entitlements and possessed some kind of independent
military capacity.
▪ The Catholic Church was an important unifying element in
medieval Europe’s international society. The Church’s
comprehensive moral and ethical code touched upon
international relations in several respects.
The Pre-Westphalian Era
▪ From 15C, the larger and more powerful states such as France
and the Habsburg Empire were increasingly dominating some of
the smaller states.
▪ The Protestant Reformation in 16C was a severe blow to the
Catholic Church’s supreme authority.
▪ Columbus’s voyage to the New World in 1492 not only raised
a new spatial awareness and interest in territory.
The Peace of Westphalia
▪ Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and
October in 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster.
▪ These treaties brought an end to the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) in the Holy
Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) between Spain and the
Dutch Republic.
(Ratification of the Peace of Münster, 1648)
The Peace of Westphalia
▪ The Peace of Westphalia established the right of the German
states to conduct their own diplomatic relations.
▪ A clear acknowledgement of their sovereignty.
▪ Also the first formal acceptance of sovereign equality for a
significant number of states.
The Peace of Westphalia
Key principles in the Peace of Westphalia
▪ The Peace of Westphalia acknowledged the sovereignty of
states and the fundamental right of political self-determination.
▪ The principle of legal equality between states were included.
▪ The treaties prevent the one state or outside powers from
intervening in the internal affairs of another state.
The Post-Westphalian Era
▪ Only ten key players and their interaction determined the
course of events.
▪ Europe in its entirety constituted a kind of republic with the
central elements; a determination by all states to preserve their
freedom, a mutual recognition of each other’s right to an
independent existence, and a reliance on a balance of power.
▪ Diplomacy and international law were seen as the other two
key institutions of international society.
The Post-Westphalian Era
▪ After the French Revolution, revolutionary insistence that
sovereignty was vested in the nation gave a crucial impetus to the
idea of ‘national self-determination’.
This was the principle that was starting to dominate international
politics in 19~20 centuries.
This also began to endanger imperial systems denying the rights of
▪ Furthermore, the main European powers set themselves apart from
the smaller ones to establish a kind of great power’s club, known as
the ‘Concert of Europe’.
The Post-Westphalian Era
1. States became the main actors in the international politics as
opposed to multinational type of empires and smaller units in
the previous era.
2. The concept of sovereignty became the most important
thing in governing how states would interact with one another.
▪ Significance① The Peace of Westphalia established the modern
concept of state’s sovereignty.
▪ The treaties acknowledged the nation-state’s sovereignty for the first time.
The nation-states were recognized as autonomous and independent actors
within their territories.
▪ The Thirty Years' War and Westphalia treaties demolished the authority of
emperor in Europe/the spiritual supremacy of the Pope.
>>The state system of Europe came to be based on the principle of
equality of status and complete independence of the states.
▪ Significance② The Peace of Westphalia introduced a scheme of
Collective Security in the international political system.
▪ The concept of Collective Security was partially mentioned in the Treaty
of Münster, which was part of the Peace of Westphalia.
▪ The Peace of Westphalia established a 'Collective Security' system:
i) a sweeping ban on the use of force; ii) a prohibition on individual selfdefense, except after the expiry of a long period; iii) the duty of all states
to act in collective self-defense.
▪ Significance② The Peace of Westphalia introduced a scheme of
Collective Security in the international political system.
▪ The scheme of collective security established by the Peace of
Westphalia was never put into effect.
▪ Nevertheless, the Peace of Westphalia introduced a Collective Security
system to the international relations and provided the basis of the
League of Nations in 1919.
▪ They clearly confirm that states possessed collective security powers
long before the advent of the United Nations.
▪ Principles from Peace of Westphalia are obsolete anymore??
▪ Should the sovereignty always be respected?
▪ State actors in the twenty-first century have to cooperate by going
beyond the limitations and barriers of Westphalian principles in
order to address well such issues as environment, humanitarian crisis
and poverty in the globalization era.