Map of Europe in 1648.

Some myths die hard, and the notion that the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, established a system of full sovereignty for the princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the European powers is a tenacious one. Selim Sazak repeats this error in his recent critique of our article on the Westphalian peace for Foreign Affairs.

In that article, we wrote:

The 1648 settlement is widely thought to have inaugurated a modern system of sovereign independent nation-states in Europe (often referred to as the Westphalian system). And, as the argument goes, when that concept was later applied to the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it actually contributed to much of the region’s current dysfunction.…But in reality, the Westphalia settlement…set up a system of limited sovereignty for the numerous states of the Holy Roman Empire.…

Sazak ignores this core distinction between

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  • MICHAEL AXWORTHY is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom.
  • PATRICK MILTON is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Free University of Berlin.
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