Your one-stop shop for everything related to the Peace of Westphalia

As you may have read, negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are being carried out in person in Istanbul. This seems like a big win for Turkey’s prestige, and specifically for Recep Erdogan. It also seems like the negotiations are progressing, at least to some extent. Russia is pulling back from around Kiev and Chernigov, and Ukraine made a formal proposal.

We are still a long way from ending the war, admittedly. Negotiations could be broken off and re-started elsewhere, so the idea of a “Treaty of Istanbul” is premature. Still, it seems the most likely outcome at this time.

You may wonder why some wars are ended by the “Treaty of Such-and-such” and others by the “Peace of Such-and-such.” The short answer is that I don’t know. In the case of Westphalia, it is particularly appropriate to call it a “peace” because there is no such thing as a Treaty of Westphalia. There are two treaties, the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück, that were signed on the same day (in fact, both were signed in Münster) and were specifically held to constitute a single agreement. “Peace of Westphalia” is therefore an obvious and appropriate name. It is also natural because Münster and Osnabrück were relatively minor towns of no special fame, so the delegates wrote of their experience in “Westphalia” as well as their time in the congress cities.

In the case of wars ended by a single treaty, e.g. the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), it makes sense to call it a “treaty” rather than a “peace,” although I suppose you could call it either (and I’m sure historians at various times have used both in almost every case). Over time, the advent of multilateral wars and negotiations resulted in wars’ increasingly being ended by more than one treaty. The War of Spanish Succession, for instance, was concluded by at least three treaties, those of Utrecht, Rastatt, and Baden. The three were signed at different times over a span of more than a year. The Treaty of Utrecht, the first of them, was the largest, and it made peace between France and several nations: Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Portugal, Prussia, and Savoy. So there is some reason to call it the “Peace of Utrecht” even if it was a single document, and it seems logical to extend that term to the other, related treaties that ended the same war. The option of calling it by the region, as Westphalia was, is limited by two thing: Utrecht is already a province as well as a city; and the treaties of Rastatt and Baden were not even signed in the Dutch Republic, but in the Empire, so they share no common region as Münster and Osnabrück do. Strangely, one hardly ever sees a name given to the final act of the Congress of Vienna; one speaks of the “Congress of Vienna” but not the “Peace of Vienna” nor the “Treaty of Vienna.”

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