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Westphalia, Peace of


The general settlement comprising the two treaties ending the thirty years' war, signed Oct. 24, 1648. Throughout the many-sided conflict that had engaged nearly all the powers of Western Europe from Sweden to Spain, several efforts were made to establish peace. At Hamburg and Ratisbon in 163738, and again at Vienna and Hamburg in 164041, preliminary negotiations had been started. The Hamburg meetings of 1641 finally resulted in the summoning of a peace congress. It was not until after Rocroy (1643), that the Hapsburgs and their allies opened negotiations with the Swedes at Osnabrück and with the Dutch and French at Münster. Peace was not to be declared. however, until both meetings arrived at agreements. Exhausted by war, alarmed by the rising power of France and by the changes wrought in the balance of power, the remaining belligerents joined the major powers in the arranging of the negotiations. The choice of two different sites for the peace talks was dictated by the unusual dynastic, constitutional, religious, and national problems that had to be discussed. Hence, the negotiations were not only involved but often awkward and prolonged. States like Venice and Portugal that were not engaged in the fighting had to be consulted because the decisions of the negotiators impinged on their national interests. For the five years during which the peace conversations continued, hostilities were maintained, thereby prolonging the horror of war and influencing the bargaining of the negotiators. The imperial emissaries were Count Trauttmansdorf and Dr. Volmar, while France was represented by Count d'Avaux and Count Servien. Count John Oxenstierna, son of the Swedish chancellor, and Baron John Salvius guarded Swedish interests. Fabio Chigi, later Alexander VII, spoke for the papacy while numerous diplomats represented other powers.

The political, territorial, and religious provisions of the treaties arranged the following: (1) Sweden received western Pomerania and secured control of the mouths of the Weser, Elbe, and Oder Rivers. The archbishopric of Bremen (but not the city), the bishopric of Verden, the city of Wismar, and an indemnity of 5,000,000 Reichstalers were granted to the Swedes. (2) France retained the bishoprics and cities of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Pignerol, Breisach, Upper and Lower Alsace including 10 imperial cities (but not Strasbourg) were acquired by France also. (3) The United Provinces and Switzerland, formerly dependencies of the Empire, acquired full sovereignty. (4) Brandenburg, beginning her significant expansion, gained eastern Pomerania and the bishoprics of Minden, Kammin, and Halberstadt as secular principalities, and was promised the archbishopric of Magdeburg after the death of its administrator. As a result of these and other minor changes, the Emperor Ferdinand III lost jurisdiction over 40,000 square miles of territory.

Politically, a general amnesty returned affairs to the conditions that had prevailed in 1618; the Bavarian retention of the electorate (granted in 1623) and the creation of a new electorate for the Palatinate were accomplished also. The religious settlement extended the provisions of the Peace of augsburg to the Calvinists and guaranteed Protestant and Catholic states equality within the Empire. The imperial Edict of restitution (1629) was superseded and January 1, 1624, was selected as the date for determining proprietorship of ecclesiastical lands and religious practice. The imperial court (Reichskammergericht) was restored also with an equal number of Protestant and Catholic judges. Pope Innocent X denounced a number of the religious provisions and the papacy never formally lifted its condemnation. Although France and Spain continued their struggle until 1659, the Peace of Westphalia did restore peace to the Empire. Divided into 300 states and principalities the Empire survived until its dissolution by Napoleon in 1806. It remains an open question as to whether the Empire was politically effective in the wake of the Peace of Westphalia. Some have seen it as dangerously unstable, disunited and racked by petty rivalries. More recently, though, some scholars have stressed its efficiency as a confederation that ruled and kept the peace in a large, ethnically and religiously diverse portion of Central Europe.

Bibliography: c. v. wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (New Haven 1939). c. j. friedrich, The Age of the Baroque, 16101660 (New York 1952). f. a. six, ed., Der Westfälische Friede von 1648 (3d ed. Berlin 1942) text. f. c. dahlmann and g. waitz, Quellenkunde der deutschen Geschichte (9th ed. Leipzig 1932) 667707. g. benecke, Society and Politics in Germany, 15001750 (London 1974). k. bussmann and h. schilling, eds., 1648, War and Peace in Europe (Münster 1999). r. konrad, Der westfälische Frieden (Opladen 1999). Book of Confessions (Knoxville TN 2000).

[p. s. mcgarry/

p. soergel]

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