What were the Peace of Westphalia and Edict of Nantes?

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Both the Edict of Nantes and the Peace of Westphalia were agreements signed by multiple parties in order to end conflict or in order to prevent possible conflict. Both documents are also thought to have had results that have lasted past the original parameters of the agreements themselves. In other...

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Both the Edict of Nantes and the Peace of Westphalia were agreements signed by multiple parties in order to end conflict or in order to prevent possible conflict. Both documents are also thought to have had results that have lasted past the original parameters of the agreements themselves. In other words both of these documents had an impact that lasted further than the situation that they were original crafted for.

Going in historical order, the Edict of Nantes was signed into law first. In 1598 King Henry IV of France signed into law the Edict of Nantes. The purpose of this document was two-fold. First it was to reaffirm that France was first and foremost a Catholic nation. Second and simultaneously it was meant to grant some religious leeway to the ever increasing Protestant and Huguenot population of France. The Edict gave those groups a greater portion of rights and protections in a nation that was not defined by their religious practices. This may not seem to be a major step for the nation at the time because the edict did nothing to address other religious groups, such as Jews and Muslims, in the same way. That being said it did set the stage for the possibility of France being more open to religious tolerance and secularism later down the line. While this is the reason this Edict is remembered it did not have the effect it was meant to. Inside of opening France up to increased religious tolerance it was actually revoked and Protestantism was declared illegal when in 1685 Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fontainebleau. Nevertheless the Edict of Nantes is an important document when it comes to the history of religious tolerance.

The Peace of Westphalia on the other hand was more concerned with ending a detrimental political situation than preventing internal religious strife. The Peace of Westphalia was a series of treaties that worked to ended the Thirty Years War. Signed in 1648 after two years of deliberation, the treaties brought peace to the conflicts that had been occurring between the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, and various other free imperial cities. The lasting results of this event, aside from ending the conflict within Europe, were also two-fold. One major and lasting result was that this event effectively broke up much of the Holy Roman Empire. Power was returned to individual cities and territories such as Switzerland, which became a sovereign nation, and the Holy Roman Empire was essential no more. The other was that even though all conflict was ended by this peace (Spain and France continued hostilities for the year or so), it did a great deal in the way of establishing lasting nation borders and the overall ideas about what a sovereign nation is and how it should be recognized.

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