Chapter Two Notes
In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War and established the principle of
sovereignty. It added to the developing template for the international system: arrangements for
governance, human rights, and economics that form the basis of the contemporary world.
The Significance of the Peace of Westphalia
The Thirty Years’ War was the last religious conflict in Europe and began over a disagreement
about the right of political leaders to choose a state religion. The opponents killed tens of
thousands of soldiers and civilians in Germany and devastated cities and farmland.
The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was established by political leaders in Europe, who
acknowledged the right of over 300 German states to conduct their own diplomatic relations a
very clear acknowledgement of their sovereignty. They also said that the states were to enjoy an
exact and reciprocal equality, or sovereign equality.
The balance of power parity and stability among competing powers was formally
incorporated in the Peace of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1701
1714) when a just equilibrium of power was formally declared to be the best and most solid basis
of mutual friendship and durable harmony.
The Treaty of Westphalia supported a new view of international law among states: they moved
from seeing it as divinely inspired to seeing it as a set of customs, conventions, and rules of
conduct created and enforced by states and their leaders.
The revolutionary insistence that sovereignty was vested in the nation rather than in the rulers
gave a crucial impetus to the idea of national selfdetermination in the late 1700s. This principle
would increasingly dominate international politics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and
endanger imperial systems that were seen as denying the rights of nations to become sovereign
To combat revolutionary wars, the five great powers of Europe (Austria, Russia, France, Britain,
and Prussia) joined together to create the Concert of Europe in 1815, which worked to control
revolutionary forces, manage the balance of power, and accept interventions to keep current
leaders in power. This lasted until World War I.
The Congress of Vienna redrew the map of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. The Congress of
Berlin helped prevent a major war over rival European claims in Africa, but also redrew the map
of Africa without their input.
After the Civil War, the United States began to become a world power. This was signified by two
events: President Teddy Roosevelt brokered the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo Japanese War in 1905; Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world in a crusade that
lasted a little over a year.
World Wars: Modern and Total
Changes in military technology shaped the ways combatants fought in both world wars. Both
wars also featured controversies over the treatments of civilians. Indiscriminate bombing of
cities occurred during both wars. One major distinction between the wars, however, is that the
Nazi death camps were at the time without parallel in human history.
For the victorious allies, the question of how World War I began became a question of how far
the Germans and their allies should be held responsible.
World War I was a total war in the sense that whole societies and economies were mobilized;
men went to the army and women went to work in factories.
The Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, established the League of Nations,
specified the rights and obligations of the victorious and defeated powers, and created the
Mandate system under which advanced nationstates were given legal authority over colonial
peoples. However, it failed to tackle a united a frustrated Germany. Instead, the treaty angered
Germans because it created new states out of former German and Austrian territories. Ultimately
the League of Nations failed because the major powers were not able to set aside their national
interests for the good of a collective global interest.
Economic factors also played into the outbreak of WWII. WWI boosted production levels for
Japan and the US but devastated production facilities in Europe; Britain and France demanded
reparations from Germany to pay for their reconstruction.
However, the Great Depression destroyed the US economy and the global economy. The damage
it caused lowered the prestige of liberal democracy and thereby strengthened extremist forces. A
growing interdependence of national economies did not result in free trade, but instead
protectionist policies increased.
Economic and political instability in Germany provided the ground in which support for the
Nazis took root. British and French attempts to negotiate with Hitler culminated in the Munich
Agreement of 1938, where, in an effort to appease Germany, Britain and France acquiesced to
Hitler’s territorial claims over part of Czechoslovakia.
The decolonization of Western European holdings following WWII provided the United States
and the Soviet Union, both superpowers, with many opportunities to expand their influence.
Legacies and Consequences of European Colonialism
After 1945 the term imperialism became a disgrace. Various factors influenced the process of