History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 1992: Q.6

History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 1992: Q.6

Q.6 From the Thirty Years War finally emerged the modern state system of Europe. Do you agree?


The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had been fought mainly on German land, partly over religion and partly over the rival ambitions of dynastic families.
It originated as a religious war with conflict between Protestant and Catholic states in the Holy Roman Empire. But later on, it became less about religion and more a continuation of the France – Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence. With no longer able to tolerate the encirclement by Habsburg power on its border, Catholic France entered the coalition on the side of the Protestants to counter the Habsburgs.

The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the Thirty Years War. The arrangements agreed upon in the Peace of Westphalia were instrumental in laying the legal foundations of the modern state systems of Europe. The Westphalian system of sovereign states was established in 1648 as part of the Peace of Westphalia.

The factors in the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia which gave rise to the modern state system:

(1) The Westphalian system provided two main principles of the new state system:

(a) The Principle of Sovereignty: 

Sovereignty meant the state was the ultimate authority over a given territory and all its inhabitants.

(b) The Principle of “Reason of state”:

The Principle of “Reason of state” placed the interests of the state above all other considerations, even religion.
Previously, many people had borne overlapping, sometimes conflicting political and religious allegiances. Henceforth the inhabitants of a given state were understood to be subject first and foremost to the laws of their respective state authority, not to the claims of any other entity, be it religious or secular.
The Peace of Westphalia is said to have ended attempts to impose supranational authority on European states like political authority of Pope over all catholics.

(2) The Westphalian system provided an agreement to respect the principle of territorial integrity and non-interference in the domestic affairs of others. States became the primary institutional agents in an interstate system of relations.

(3) The Westphalian system provided for the principle of legal eqality of states.

(4) During the Thirty Years War itself, the theory of modern state emerged when Catholic France’s intervened against the Catholic Hapsburgs on behalf of Protestant Germany. This proved interest of state above religion.

Though the beginning of the modern state system in Europe is considered from the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, the modern state system did not just appear overnight in 1648. The emergence of the modern state system was in reality slow and gradual process driven by important economic, religious and military developments and that eventually undermined the feudal order and replaced it with a new way of organising European politics.

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