Problems and Solutions Found in the Peace of Westphalia Essay

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The Peace of Westphalia achieved the beginning of a new political order in Europe, one in which the Roman Church had little authority over the emerging independent states, such as the Dutch Republic. It ended the Thirty Years War that had raged in throughout the Holy Roman Empire, and it also ended the Eighty Years War between Spain and the Dutch. It was, in large part, a compromise between the warring Protestant and Catholic entities, along with Jewish influence in the Netherlands. Essentially, the Peace of Westphalia established a political peace, in which the respective combatants respected the sovereignty of the other and resolved to maintain a political balance. It was moreover the basis for the formation of modern international law.

What Westphalia did not achieve was any solid or real, lasting peace. The practicality of its political peace stemmed from a desire to end the warring -- but it did nothing to resolve the ideological tensions that still bubbled beneath the surface. Calvinists and Lutherans, Catholics and Jews all still remained at odds with another in terms of worldview and religious orientation -- deep-seated beliefs that found practical and political expression in opposing ways. Thus, while Westphalia put an end to the major wars in Europe, it did not extinguish all conflict; instead it merely afforded a temporary truce, as the history of modern Europe has indeed shown true. The continent, since Westphalia, has never been united in one belief as it was, more or less, in the days of Christendom. On the contrary, it has seen one civil war after another, culminating in the awful World Wars of the 20th century and today in the rapine of the banking cartels lording over debt colonies like Greece.

Deliberate arrangements that were made by the peacemakers from 1648-1715 included the legal autonomy and recognition of the warring religious factions, the Calvinists, Catholics, Lutherans and Jews. It was agreed that all would observe the treaty of the Peace of Augsburg, which in 1555 had asserted that every prince of every realm could set the legal religion of that realm. However, Westphalia now guaranteed that religious minorities were protected by the State and could practice privately whenever they desired and publicly during hours determined by the State.

Switzerland was separated from the Holy Roman Empire and recognized as an independent entity. Lands and territories were redistributed and lines redrawn, essentially carving up Europe along religious and political lines.

Stabilizing effects of Westphalia were more "implicit and informal" than "institutional components" of the Peace of Westphalia (Holsti 45). These effects derived from the tolerance that followed -- but this tolerance was neither sweeping nor absolute. The stability, in other words, was but a practical…

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Works Cited

Holsti, Kalevi. Peace and Conflict: Armed Conflicts and International Order 1648-1989.

NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Print.

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