What we can learn today from peace agreements in the past

Scholars discuss peace issues in the past and present – From the Peace of Westphalia 375 years ago to the current situation in Israel and Ukraine – Symposium “Winning the peace from 1648 to today” in Münster

Poster of the symposium "Winning the peace from 1648 to today”

Press release 13 October 2023 

In the face of the current situation of war, scholars will discuss in Münster on Monday what we can learn from peace agreements in the past. As announced by historians Dr. Claudia Kemper from the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) and Prof. Dr. Ricarda Vulpius from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” at the University of Münster, the scholars will also discuss the international security situation and challenges for future peace, especially against the background of the situation in Ukraine and Israel. To mark the anniversary year “375 Years of the Peace of Westphalia”, the LWL Institute for Westphalian Regional History, the Cluster of Excellence, and the City of Münster are holding the symposium “Winning the peace from 1648 to today” on 16 October.

“The peace treaty of 1648 is still an anchor of remembrance today”, says Claudia Kemper. “The challenges of achieving peace agreements are more topical than ever. Societies around the world are still struggling to reach peace agreements and post-war orders”. Eastern European historian Ricarda Vulpius added: “Peace negotiations begin with the fundamental acceptance of the negotiating partner. As long as the Russian government does not give this acceptance to the Ukrainian side, there cannot be even the minimum condition for any form of peace agreement to end the war”.

Prof. Dr. Ricarda Vulpius
© Emilia Bachmann

The Peace of Westphalia as a model for Ukraine?

In an interview on the symposium, Ricarda Vulpius says that, in creating a permanent new security order, the Peace of Westphalia is a model for settling today’s wars. What can be learned from 1684 is that the start of negotiations requires a military stalemate. “At that time, none of the warring parties saw any chance of gaining significant ground. And there was also war fatigue”. But so far there has been no military stalemate in the Russian-Ukrainian war. “The Russian side has sent no signal whatsoever that it is interested in negotiations to achieve a just peace. This is the biggest contrast to the Peace of Westphalia”.

Subtitled “Historical perspectives on the Peace of Westphalia and the present day”, the event – at the LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Auditorium, Domplatz 10, 48143 Münster, at 2.00 p.m. on 16 October – will comprise two panels: “1648 as history and place of remembrance”, and “Making peace in the modern age”. This will be followed in the evening at 7.00 p.m. by the panel “Winning the peace since 1648: Historical and political perspectives on the present”. Those interested can register at: https://www.lwl-regionalgeschichte.de/de/veranstaltungen/den-frieden-gewinnen/.

Moderated by radio journalist Dr. Heiner Wember, the evening panel on 16 October will feature a discussion by historian Prof. Dr. Ricarda Vulpius, legal scholar Prof. Dr. Angelika Nußberger from the Academy for the Protection of European Human Rights, Dr. Aylin Matlé from the German Council on Foreign Relations, and Osnabrück social scientist Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schneckener. LWL Head of Culture Dr. Barbara Rüschoff-Parzinger will introduce the evening, and LWL Director Dr. Georg Lunemann, Mayor Angela Stähler and Prorector Prof. Dr. Michael Quante will speak at the beginning of the symposium.

The symposium on 16 October is the penultimate part of a series of events organized by the Cluster of Excellence to mark the anniversary year “375 Years of the Peace of Westphalia”. The final event on 24 October is the “Westphalian Peace Summit 2023” at the Münster Theatre, where international guests will discuss perspectives on a global peace order, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, political scientist Prof. Dr. Ummu Salma Bava from New Delhi, and Prof. Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). (vvm/fbu)