The Treaty of Westphalia, the peace that ended the Thirty Years War, has long been considered a turning point in the international system by scholars and historians alike but what quality was it that made this treaty any different from the dozens of other treaties signed across Europe in that century? The answer lies not only within the terms it’s paragraphs stipulated but within the time it occurred, with the parties that were involved in that conflict and more importantly the sides they chose to fight for. The Thirty Years War was not born solely of conflicting religious views but also of something less divine and more pragmatic for the mere-mortals of the time. It would revolutionize the way nations would perceive and treat one another. It would state how wars would be waged in the future and how peace would be made. This treaty would form nations and established orders that would be referred to for the next 140 years. In this essay an examination will be made of the history surrounding the Peace of Westphalia; the events that preceded it and followed it, the parties involved and the terms stated in the formal treaty that answer a pivotal question: what was the significance of the Treaty of Westphalia for the international system?
The first events that would lead to the Treaty of Westphalia occurred over the century and a half before the first casualties of the Thirty Years War. European politics of the time generally revolved around the relationship between Europe and the House of Habsburg. The Habsburg were an incredibly influential dynasty and for most of this period they had been attempting to achieve hegemony and on occasion they had even tried for a universal monarchy that would span all of Europe. By the time Charles V had been granted all of his titles, the Habsburg empire included: Spain and its territories in the Americas and the Indies, Sardinia and Sicily in the Mediterranean, Naples and Milan in Italy, the Burgundian Circle provinces...
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