“War and Religion after Westphalia” a Book by David Onnekink Essay

December 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

Published in 2009 by Ashgate Publishing Limited, the book, War and Religion After Westphalia, 1648-1713, is a collection of works by different authors with David Onnekink as the chief editor. The peace of Westphalia was perhaps a watershed in European history as it marked the end of long-standing wars in the pretext of religion. This peace treaty sought to divorce faith from politics coupled with recognizing the sovereignty of states across the world and especially Europe. However, the notion that religion played an almost insignificant role in the modernization and internationalization of Europe after the treaty is flawed, according to Onnekink and the contributors to this book. This paper reviews and analyzes the book War and Religion after Westphalia. It starts by reviewing the contents of the book before analyzing the work critically.

In the opening chapter of the book, David Onnekink introduces the controversial Dark Alliance between Religion and War. The author notes that even though the conventional understanding holds that European religious wars ended in 1648 with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, new evidence holds that these wars continued long after the treaty. David uses this section to qualify these claims. Paul Sonnino explores Louis XIV’s religious policies in Spain and beyond.

One of the landmark issues during Louis XIV’s reign is the approval of the Peace of the Church. However, Sonnino notes that the king’s pressing issue was to acquire the Spanish Low Courts, and thus he used religion as a springboard towards achieving his goals. In the second essay, Christopher Storrs investigates The role of religion in Spanish Foreign Policy in the reign of Carlos II (1665- 1700). Storrs laments that the efforts to understand this topic are constrained, given that very little information is available on Spanish policy after 1648. In addition, historians have largely ignored this issue; however, Storrs labors to present the available information on the issue.

In chapter three, which doubles as essay three, Andrew Thompson tackles After Westphalia: Remodeling of a Religious Foreign Policy. Thompson notes that the signing of the peace of Westphalia heralded the secularization process across Europe. He seeks to differentiate between the commonly confused wars of religion and religious foreign policy. He majors in Britain to explore his themes. In the fourth essay, Onnekink (2009) explores The Last War of Religion: the Dutch and the Nine Years’ War. This war occurred between 1688 and 1697, but it heralded the War of Spanish Succession, which started in 1702. Onnekink notes that historians do not classify the Nine Year’s War as a religious war, but he insists that it was indeed a religious conflict. Stephane Jettot’s essay, Diplomacy, Religion, and Political Stability: The Views of Three English Diplomats, comes in fifth place.

Jettot does not major on the religious aspect in this essay, but he concentrates on diplomacy based on some English diplomats. K.A.J McLay’s essay, The Blessed Trinity: The Army, The Navy, and Providence in the conduct of warfare, 1688-1713, is a key text as it explores the connection between religion and war in the post-Westphalia era.

Another key essay on war and religion after Westphalia is Mathew Glozier’s writing, Schomberg, Mirenmont, and Huguenot Invasions of France. Glozier chronicles what heralded the invasion of France by giving systematic accounts of what happened before, during, and after the invasion. Religion played a key role in these invasions, which nullifies the conventional thinking that religious wars died with the signing of the Westphalia Peace Treaty in 1648. Donald Haks’ essay, The States’ General on Religion and War: Manifestos, policy documents, and prayer days in the Dutch Republic, 1962-1973, highlights issues to do with policies. It does not major on warfare per se.

The ninth essay, An English dissenter and the crisis of European Protestantism: Roger Morrice’s perception of European politics in the 1680s, majors on politics. Religion and war are not tackled conclusively in this essay. Jill Stern’s essay, A righteous war and a Papist peace: War, peace, and religion in the political rhetoric of the United provinces 1648-1672, addresses the role of the papacy within the United Provinces. The last essay, Defending the true faith: Religious themes in Dutch pamphlets of England, 1688-1689, is by Emma Bergin. This essay does not explore war in detail.

As aforementioned, the book War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648-1713, questions the role of religion in wars and foreign policy after the signing of the Westphalia peace treaty in 1648. The conventional consensus holds that religion played minimal roles in defining wars and foreign policy after 1648. The different essays that make up this book infringe on this current understanding of the role of religion in post-Westphalia wars. The underlying theme in all the essays is that religion played key roles in these wars.

However, most of the essays are not clear on the issue of foreign policy and war, as they do not give clear-cut definitions of these two terms as used in the context of the writings. For instance, the essays do not discuss the religious affiliations of the soldiers involved in the battles. In addition, the reader does not know of the role of padres and other religious groups in the wars. Therefore, the title was given to the book, viz. War and religion do not fit well in the contents of the book. The title, Religion and Foreign policy after Westphalia would be more befitting as compared to the current one.

The opening four essays mainly highlight how religion and religious affiliations affected foreign policy in different European countries like the Dutch, Britain, Spain, and France. In his article, Christopher Storrs gives a concise account of the structure and running of Spanish diplomacy. However, his chronicles do not point to the overriding influence of the then Catholic identity in matters of diplomacy. On the other side, Andrew Thompson’s essay majors mainly on British foreign policy.

On their part, Paul Sonnino majors on the French’s foreign policy, just as David Onnekink, who tackles the same issue in the Dutch Republic. The two authors appreciate the role of religion in shaping foreign policy in France and the Dutch Republic. Stephane Jettot’s essay digresses from the book’s title to tackle religion and diplomats, where he gives an account of views of three English diplomats. The essay does not delve into the aspect of warfare and religion. Jill Stern majors on the grandiosity of the Dutch political tracts, and even though he notes that religion played a key role in post-Westphalia wars, he does not show how the said influence functioned. Emma Bergin and Donald Haks talk of different issues touching on religion and foreign policy in different European countries.

The only works in line with the book’s title are the essays by Mathew Glozier and K.A.J McLay. McLay explores the waning reliance on God by military commanders during combat. He highlights the entry of professionalism in the service. For instance, William III digressed from the conventional “Protestant Wind” in his 1688 invasion of England. Unfortunately, just like the other writers, McLay presents weak arguments to back his claims, perhaps due to the use of unreliable sources with limited information.

For instance, Oliver Cromwell believed that God was still under control and that He caused the enemy to stumble in favor of Cromwell’s army. Glozier’s essay is the other convincing essay as he highlights how the Dutch Republic and Britain used religious affiliations to their advantage whilst dealing with the Huguenots. However, the writer generalizes all the Huguenots and assumes that they were all led by their religious beliefs, which is a mere assumption.

In conclusion, the book, War and Religion after Westphalia, is a collection of essays by different authors with David Onnekink as the chief editor. Unfortunately, the contents of the book digress from its topic, as the majority of the essays do not dwell on the warfare aspect. Mostly, the essays talk about the role of religion in shaping foreign policy for different European countries, which is a digression from the book’s title. Mathew Glozier and K.A.J McLay come close to tackling warfare and religion, but they also fall in the same trap of giving scanty and inconclusive information concerning the core theme of the book, viz. warfare and religion. Therefore, the book does not meet the objective of nullifying the notion that religious wars died with the signing of the Westphalia peace treaty in 1648.


Onnekink, David, ed. 2009. War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648-1713. Farnham: Ashgate. Web.

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