Skip to content
May 15, 2015

May 15, 1648: modern era begins at Münster

Europe was a mess in the early 17th century. Fighting between Protestants and Catholics, starting in 1618, had engulfed most of the continent in the following decades.

On this day in 1648, the Peace of Münster was signed, forming the basis of the Peace of Westphalia that would end the Thirty Years’ War.

The Peace of Westphalia would require two later treaties: the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück in October. But this opening salvo laid out the terms for the modern era of international relations.

The May Peace ended the lesser-known Eighty Years’ War, in which a group of provinces in the Low Country (today’s Benelux area and parts of surrounding nations) sought independence from Spain. 

The agreement gave the Netherlands its independence, and established the concept of coexisting sovereign states kept in check by a balance of power: if one state gets too strong, the others will band together to keep it in check. That continues as a core doctrine of international relations to this day.

The Schiller Institute has more on the Peace of Westphalia.

One Comment
  1. Of the Benelux countries, only the Ne got its official independence from Spain. Be stayed Spanish, and Lux was still part of the Holy Roman Empire. But let’s talk about The Eighty Years War:

What do you think?