Last Friday was Peace of Westphalia Day — the 366th anniversary of the signing of the treaties. I was, appropriately enough, delivering a paper on the Peace of Westphalia. I was at a conference at Columbia University that brought together specialists to compare early modern Europe’s religious wars with the current religious conflicts in the Middle East. This seems like a bit of a stretch for historians, but not so much for political scientists. Fortunately, both I and the other member of my panel, Wayne Te Brake, were open to the comparative perspective. Professor Te Brake is most known for Shaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics, 1500-1700, but he is currently working on a book on the ends of Europe’s religious wars. Hopefully there will be a publication coming out of this conference some time next year.
I recently bought and started to read Henry Kissinger’s latest book, World Order, which begins (of course) with the Peace of Westphalia. Perhaps ironically, he also compares the Thirty Years’ War to contemporary Islamic wars, although from a cynical perspective: “Much like the Middle Eastern conflagrations of our own period, sectarian alignments were invoked for solidarity and motivation in battle but were just as often discarded, trumped by clashes of geopolitical interests or simply the ambitions of outsized personalities” (pp.25-26). You can read my comments on it here.