Other sites

Here are some links to other sites on the Peace of Westphalia or related topics.  The first ten I chose simply by taking the first ten results of a Google search for “Peace of Westphalia,” as I figure these are the ones most likely to be visited by those interested in the subject.  The others are sites that I found interesting for one reason or another.

Wikipedia – This article has undergone a lot of changes in the past few years, mostly for the worse.  The current version is awkwardly written, as though drafted by a non-native English speaker, and contains a number of factual errors.  The opening summary says that Westphalia “did create the basis for national self-determination,” which is only possible on the most superficial reading of the treaties.  The article was also quick to add the mistaken comments in Henry Kissinger’s latest book, “World Order,” about balance of power and sovereignty (see here for my assessment of Kissinger on the Peace of Westphalia).  The best that can be said for it is that it includes many details not found on other sites, but you have to be careful which ones you believe.

History Today – A very brief overview of the war and the negotiations.  Pretty much no narrative and short on specifics, except for giving the exact time when the signing ceremony started.  I’m not sure you would know which sides were even fighting if you didn’t know it already.

History Learning Site – A kind of quirky summary, not too bad except for the assertion that Westphalia put an end to electing a King of the Romans during the life of the Emperor.  This issue was discussed at the negotiations; France and Sweden favoured it because they felt it allowed the Habsburgs to continue their virtually hereditary hold on the Imperial title.  However, almost all Imperial estates opposed it, and of course the Habsburgs themselves were strongly against it, so it was not implemented.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Princeton – just a copy of part of the Wikipedia article from some earlier date.

The Avalon Project– the text of the treaty between France and the Empire, in an English translation, from Yale Law School.

The Schiller Institute – this is by far the weirdest web site to make it into Google’s top ten results for “Peace of Westphalia.”  The idea of an institute based on Friedrich Schiller, who wrote a major history of the Thirty Years’ War, covering the Peace of Westphalia makes perfect sense.  That is, until you learn that the institute is controlled by disciples of Lyndon LaRouche.  One doesn’t hear much about Mr. LaRouche recently, but back in the 1980’s his party was in the news as a possible alternative in local and national elections in America.  LaRouche has held some of the most bizarre conspiracy theories, such as believing that the Queen of England is a major player in drug trafficking.  As with other such unbalanced thinkers, everything has to fit into his theory, so the Peace of Westphalia becomes another example of good vs. evil.  He views Westphalia as on the good side, and credits it almost exclusively to Mazarin.  The article is most interesting as an example of how not to write history:  take things that actually happened, put your views onto the historical actors, and don’t do any research into what the actors were themselves thinking.  It does allow you to come up with plausible-sounding explanations for historical events, but they only sound plausible as long as you don’t talk to someone who knows the actual reasons of the actors in any detail.  Marxist historians like to practice this form of historical projection, e.g. Boris Porschnev’s assertion that France made peace in 1648 because it was afraid of the consequences of the English Revolution — there is no evidence for his claim, but since the events happened at about the same time, you wouldn’t realize how ridiculous it is without deeper knowledge.  This does make for some amusing historical claims, such as the Schiller Institute’s believe that Venice was responsible for manipulating European politics prior to 1648, but it is also disturbing.  How is this site in the top 10 of search results?  Do that many people actually visit it, or is Google that bad at ranking it?

Encyclopedia.com – this site contains excerpts from different encyclopedias.  The first is “Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World.”  The article, by Graham Darby, contains the most thoughtful and detailed summary of any of the sites reviewed here.  I could quibble with parts, but overall I am impressed.  The article from the Columbia Encyclopedia is shorter but also useful and surprisingly accurate (considering the quality of other encyclopedias).  The World Encyclopedia entry is only a paragraph, but I recommend encyclopedia.com as a good place to begin your research because of the quality of the other articles.

Infoplease – the Columbia Encyclopedia entry, identical to what is found on encyclopedia.com.

UNLV (Gregory Brown) – These appear to be the lecture notes of the professor, although some further digging suggests that he is reproducing the text of an online textbook from a company called iLrn.  Westphalia itself occupies only the first part of this lesson, which is more broadly on the state system.  It uses Westphalia as an introduction to his broader topics of sovereignty and reason of state, so it contains only the briefest summary of the negotiations and the peace.  [Note to self:  I need to write something on the subject of “reason of state,” it does not mean raising political concerns over morality, as this site asserts!]

Education Portal – clearly seems to be directed at children (I’m guessing older ones).  I’m impressed by how the article opens with the question of religious freedom.  This aspect is rarely emphasized any more, but for Protestants, the war was long known chiefly as a war for religious freedom.  Unfortunately, the article is still in the midst of summarizing the Thirty Years’ War when it hits the paywall, so I can’t comment on its treatment of Westphalia specifically.  The video that goes with it also seems to be blocked.

The Thirty Years’ War – this little site has been around for a long time and still ranks highly on searches for “Peace of Westphalia.” It has excellent summaries of the various parts of the Thirty Years’ War, as well as a few book reviews. My favourite feature is the RSS feed for “Today in the Thirty Years’ War,” something I hope to add to this site eventually.

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