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City of “Peace of Westphalia”

City of “Peace of Westphalia”


Historical Backround

The Thirty Years’ War was a series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. Although it seems to be mainly based on religion (Protestant and Catholic conflict) indeed it has started the birth process of the national state. In this war the religion used by certain power of Europe as an intervention tool. When the war ended the fighting forces needed a city to negotiate peace. The city of peace would be Münster & Osnabrück.

Münster becomes a neutral convention town; the representatives of the belligerent powers negotiate within the city as of 1643/44. The reason for the election of these cities (including Osnabrück) was to be found in the middle of the road between the Swedish and French capitals. The treaty which made peace possible was signed by sovereigns and envoys, at Münster’s Town Hall (Friedenssaal) on October 24th, 1648. That’s the story of that famous picture.

Münster & Osnabrück Treaties

‘’The treaties became a pillar of the international law and relations that last till today. The Peace of Westphalia is a key event in European history, the end of the Thirty-Year War, which involved most of the great powers of Europe, and of the Eighty-Year war between the Netherlands and Spain. The event exemplifies a moment in modern European history when peace was agreed through diplomatic negotiations, not force. Religious tolerance was accepted as the basis of international relations.’’ (EU Report)  

When I visited Town Hall as a young social scientist I felt really excited. Because what I learned as a student of political science and what I will learn in the future would be related to this agreement and this place. So, what is the importance of the Treaty of Westphalia in political science and international relations? The agreement paved a way for the birth of national states.

Main Outcomes

  • Sovereign rights for peripheral states were secured. Specially, The German principalities secured their autonomy.  
  • The treaty gave the Swiss independence from Austria and the Netherlands independence from Spain.
  • The Münster and Osnabrück Agreements were not allowed to speak to the papal representative. The influence of the papacy on the kingdoms came to an end. The system is secularized.
  • Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists were granted equal rights. The ruling of Augsburg (1555) was confirmed by the ruling power to determine the ‘’religion’’ on its own territory.
  • The kingdoms identify physical boundaries mutually and the sovereignties are confirmed. In this way, tax collection became more feasible and the enriched states established regular armies.
  • Thanks to these agreements Congress Diplomacy started. That’s why modern diplomacy conventions and rules have begun to be developed.

1776 American Revolution and 1789 French Revolution developments have strengthened our understanding of the nation-state. Structures beyond the state began to gain power in international relations today.

Recently, the city of Münster has hosted the G-7 Summit:

Why has Münster been chosen as the venue? The Peace of Westphalia is a cradle of modern international law; it is where fundamental concepts such as the equality and sovereignty of states were negotiated for the very first time in a large peace agreement.


European Heritage Label (EU) -Münster and Osnabrück – European Heritage Label 2014

Stadt Münster

G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Münster 

History Today : Richard Cavendish’s article


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