Westphalia, Treaty of 1648

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Westphalia, Treaty of (1648)


the agreement that ended the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-48 in Europe. It consisted of two peace treaties concluded on Oct. 24, 1648, after lengthy negotiations that began in the spring of 1645 in the Westphalian cities of Münster and Osnabrück—the treaty of Osnabrück between the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and his allies, on the one hand, and Sweden and its allies, on the other; and the treaty of Münster between the emperor and his allies, on the one hand, and France and its allies, on the other.

The provisions of the Treaty of Westphalia concerned territorial changes, religious relations, and political arrangements in the empire. According to the Treaty of Westphalia, Sweden received from the empire, in addition to an indemnity of 5 million talers, Rügen Island, all of West Pomerania and part of East Pomerania with the city of Stettin, the city of Wismar, the secularized archbishopric of Bremen, and the secularized bishopric of Verden. Sweden thus found itself in possession not only of the major ports on the Baltic but also those on the North Sea; as ruler of the German principalities, it became a member of the empire with the right to send its delegates to the Imperial diets. France received the former Hapsburg possessions in Alsace and its sovereignty over the Lorraine bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun was confirmed. France and Sweden, which were the victorious powers, were declared the chief guarantors of the fulfillment of the provisions of the Treaty of Westphalia. The allies of the victorious powers—the German principalities of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and Brunswick-Lüneburg—enlarged their territories at the expense of secularized bishoprics and monasteries; the Duke of Bavaria was confirmed in his possession of the Upper Palatinate and in his title of elector. The treaty recognized the German princes’ complete independence from the emperor in conducting domestic and foreign policy, provided that the external alliances were not directed against the empire or the emperor. In matters of religion the Treaty of Westphalia gave to the Calvinists (Reformed Church) in Germany equal rights with the Catholics and Lutherans and legalized the secularization of church lands carried out before 1624, but it deprived the German princes of the right to determine the religion of their subjects. The treaty legally recognized the political disunity of Germany, which had been the result of the entire preceding course of its social and economic development.

The Treaty of Westphalia, which consolidated the victory of the anti-Hapsburg coalition in the war, was of great international significance. The attempt to create a Christian world empire under the aegis of the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburgs and their plans for suppressing the Reformation movement in Europe and subjugating the bourgeois republic of Holland failed. Switzerland and the republic of Holland obtained international recognition of their sovereignty, with Holland’s sovereignty being recognized in a separate Dutch-Spanish treaty. France ensured itself of a dominant position in Western Europe for a long time. However, the Treaty of Westphalia did not completely break the power of the Hapsburgs. In the conditions of bitter social and political conflicts that broke out in that period, such as the English bourgeois revolution and the French Fronde, the French absolutist government hastened to conclude a peace with the Hapsburgs and made numerous concessions in the course of the negotiations in Westphalia.


Instrumenta pacis Westphalicae: Die Westfälischen Friedensverträge 1648. Text edited by K. Müller. Bern, 1949.


Porshnev, B. F. Frantsiia, Angliiskaia revoliutsiia i evropeiskaia politika v seredine XVII v. Moscow, 1970.
Shindelarzh, B. “Vestfal’skii mirnyi kongress 1643-1648 gg. i cheshskii vopros.” In the collection Srednie veka, issues 28-29. Moscow, 1965-66.
Dickmann, F. Der Westfälische Frieden, 2nd ed. Münster, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.