The Western Civilization Treaty of Westphalia

Western Civilization

Treaty of Westphalia

The Treaty of Westphalia is combination of two peace treaties, the Osnabruck and Munster treaties. These two treaties effectively ended the Thirty Years War and the Eighty Years War. Both of these wars involved major fighting between the European powers. As the Holly Roman Empire (modern day Germany) would see nobles have the same power as the Emperor. This is significant, because it would allow countries such as France to see a rise in prominence at the expense of weaker neighbor. Over the course of time, this would sow the seeds of the desire to unit all the German people. This frustration would lead to the militarization of Germany in the later centuries, as the country would struggle to unite and have the same benefits as the other European powers. As a result, one could infer that the Treaty of Westphalia was a pattern that would fuel German anger, with this allowing of the ideas of a strong united Germany to take shape, leading to: World War I and World War II. (Speilvogel, 2006)

In the case of the Eighty Years War, this would play a major role in determining how modern day Europe would be shaped. What happened was, Spain agreed to give Holland and Belgium their independence. This is significant in highlighting the declining power and influence that Spain would have in the 18th and 19th centuries. As Spain would lose its massive empire and would be invaded by Napoleon. It would also prove to be an area of contention that would affect the relations between Germany, France, Belgium and Holland. Germany would see the traditional alliance of the three countries, as an extension of France. Because of this influence, Germany would target both Belgium and Holland in territorial disputes, because of their close relationship with France. This would cause the intensity of wars to become even more severe due to this fact. (Speilvogel, 2006)


Mercantilism is an economic theory that allows a nation to build its overall wealth at the expense of other nations. Under this theory, each nation will act in their own self-interest by increasing the overall amount of precious metal assets that they are holding in reserve (gold, silver) and through trade policy. The idea is to create a positive trade balance with other nations, by flooding them with exports. Then, when the other nation attempts to send exports to your country a protectionist policy of tariffs and barriers is established. This is designed to keep the overall amounts of imports as low as possible, while maximizing the exports. For the other nations, the positive trade surplus takes place at their expense, as they see a trade deficit. (Speilvogel, 2006)

This is significant, because mercantilism was practiced between the 17th and 20th centuries. It has been tied directly to a number of different wars and the European colonial ambitions during the time. The way this fueled European colonialism is the various nations in Europe would seek out colonies that could provide them with the natural resources they need. The European country would have the power to experience free trade from the colony to the country itself. They would then, use the various natural resources as products for trade with other counties on world markets. The reason why this was occurring was to give each country the positive trade surplus that it needed at the expense of other countries. This attitude would lead to rivalries between the different powers for land and access to various natural resources. Over the course of time, this competition would fuel wars between the different powers. An example of this would be the French Indian War of the 1760’s, as both England and France were fighting over who controlled the land towards the Mississippi River. This desire for land and natural resources would help cement England’s status as a world power. Because, they could use the various natural resources for their own benefit, helping to increase the trade balance with other countries. (Speilvogel, 2006)

Treaty of Vienna

The Treaty of Vienna is a series of treaties that took place between 1606 and 1866. They are all significant because they show the overall shifting alliances that are occurring. As the rivals of Austria and France, attempt to outmaneuver each other, for the most amount of influence in the region. The reason why this is so significant, is the changes took place from the different treaties would lead to the beginning of the downfall of Austria Hungarian Empire. What happened is; France has been continually attempting to limit the overall influence of their rival. As the two, would seek to use the other powers to balance out influences of their enemy. As various conflicts occurred, this meant that the continent would slowly be reshaped as France would gain more influence. After the Napoleonic Wars, France would increase its overall amounts of influence by invading the Holly Roman Empire (which led to its disintegration) and through the seeding of Venice to Italy (both were territories of Austria Hungary). This treaty is an ominous sign of two competing empires, attempting to reduce the influence of the other. In many ways you could draw the declining influence of Austria Hungary, as a sign of the anger that fueled the rise of German nationalism. Where, each successive treaty attempted to limit the influence and power of Austria (and eventually Germany). This is significant because it would help fuel the bloody war that both would fight during World War I; and the humiliating defeat France would see at the hands of Germany in World War II. As a result, the Treaty of Westphalia was a cause of future European wars. Where, Austria (then eventually Germany) would be crippled by the ambitions of France. This is the heart of the dispute between the different sides, which has only continued to fuel future wars. As Austria would continue to rise again, seeking revenge for injustices at the hands of its neighbor. (Speilvogel, 2006)

Continental System

The continental system was used in Europe by Napoleon from 1806 to1814. What happened was Napoleon had conquered or allied most of European nations on the continent. This left England in his way of achieving territorial conquests. Because England was too powerful to invade, Napoleon figured he could weaken it economically and then invade after there was an economic collapse. Under the system, Napoleon banned all countries that are trading with England with invasion, unless they agreed to go along with the plan. Since the ones Napoleon did not invade were either allied or weaker, they would reluctantly comply. This would lead to a blockade of all French ports from the British. Over the course of time, the system used by Napoleon would crumble as his allied nations would trade with England because they needed the manufactured goods from there. Since, England was the most industrialized country in Europe at the time, meant that demand for manufactured goods would increase. When Portugal began trading with England, Napoleon invaded. This caused the King of Portugal to flee to Brazil and declare it an independent country. After France had been expelled from Portugal, Russia began trading with England. This would lead to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. (Speilvogel, 2006)

This policy was significant because it would change Europe. As Napoleon, would seek to unite the continent under France. Yet, this policy would spell Napoleon’s downfall, as the invasion of Portugal would lead to a humiliating defeat that would severely weaken him. The invasion of Russia would prove to be his most costly mistake, as he would lose nearly all of his army during the brutal Russian winter. Together, these different elements would curtail the territorial ambitions that France would have. This would lead to improved relations between the two countries. The continental policy is significant, because it shows a shift occurring in French foreign policy, which was the result of the continental policy. (Speilvogel, 2006)

Sadler Commission

The Sadler Commission examined the state of Indian education between 1917 and 1919. What happened was Michael Sadler would head a commission that made recommendations to India’s Secretary of State, regarding ways that the educational system can be improved. Over the course of two years, the commission would go beyond the scope of its original mandate. When they released their report in 1919, it was a total of 13 volumes. This would include a detailed sociological account as to how to improve the state of education in both Britain and India. The commission was significant because it would provide a blue print for transforming Indian education. This is because, the scope of the recommendations go beyond the world of education. Where, many women and those within the lower castes would have access to educational services for the first time. When you combine this Gandhi’s calls for an end to British rule, the ideas presented by the commission transformed Indian society within a few years. This would enlighten many Indians to the ideas of independence; that would only gain support as the 20th century continued. (Speilvogel, 2006)

This highlights a change that is occurring in the world power structure. As the mercantilist system of the 19th century would begin to slowly be replaced by a new one. The way that the Sadler Commission would fit in with this trend is: they would highlight a change in British policy towards their colonies. This would involve investing more time and money in attempting to educate as well as train the local population. After, India’s independence this educational system would continue to remain in place. This can be tied to the favorable investing climate that many businesses see in India, with the workforce known as for being highly educated. As a result, this is one reason why so many companies seek to outsource many operations to India because of low labor cost and the highly educated workforce. This is the legacy of the Sadler Commission to India. (Speilvogel, 2006)


Laissez faire is a trade principal that support the idea of reducing the overall influence of government in economic / business as much as possible. This is accomplished by lowering taxes and reducing or eliminating trade barriers. During the 18th to the 20th century mercantilism was the main economic system used by most nations. However, the ideas of laissez faire (free trade) were slowly gaining traction. After the American Revolution, the United States used this system with varying degrees. Some examples of the overall influence of laissez faire would be: the dissolving of the First Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States. In England, the idea would take shape with the birth of the Economist in 1843. They were dedicated to being the voice of free trade. This is significant because during the Irish famine, the Economist would argue that it is against the laws of nature to give the Irish food to eat, citing the principals of laissez faire. (Speilvogel, 2006)

What this shows, is that out of laissez faire is the idea of Social Darwinism would develop. This is where everyone is responsible for their own status in life and those who fail to evolve are at the lowest end of the economic spectrum (based upon the laws of nature). Over the course of time, this principal would lead to the creation of globalization. Where, after the ideas of mercantilism were discredited, this principal would become the basis of the global / international system that would develop in the aftermath of World War II. The establishment of institutions such as: the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund are tied to the ideas of laissez faire in one way or another. As a result, these institutions have been the forerunner for the creation of other multi-national entities such as the E.U. This is significant because the ideas of laissez faire became an economic / political philosophy that continues to be used to this day, as globalization makes the world smaller. (Speilvogel, 2006)


Speilvogel, J. (2006). Western Civilization Since 1300. Bemont, CA: Thompson Higher Education.

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