Important Treaties in World History

Important Treaties in World History

Treaty of Tordesillas (1494):

  • The 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas neatly divided the “New World” into land, resources, and people claimed by Spain and Portugal.
  • It was signed between Portugal and Spain (technically its component Kingdom of Castile) under the mediation of the papacy.
  • This resulted in Spanish control over much of Central and South America while the as of yet undiscovered Brazil fell to Portugal.
  • This treaty led to exploration by Portugal to the east resulting in Vasco da Gama’s discovery of sea route to India in 1498.

The Peace of Westphalia (1648):

  • The Peace of Westphalia consisted of two related treaties, the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück, signed at the end of the Thirty Years’ War and the Eighty Years’ War.
  • This conflict which started out as a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire evolved into a major conflict between all the then major powers of Europe.
  • According to the Peace of Westphalia, all parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 which had the following provisions;
  • Christians of non-dominant denominations were guaranteed the right to practice their faith; and
  • the exclusive sovereignty of each party over its lands, people, and agents abroad was recognized.
  • The Peace of Westphalia established the precedent of peace reached by diplomatic congress and a new system of political order in Europe based upon the concept of co-existing sovereign states.
  • The Westphalian principle of the recognition of another state’s sovereignty and right to decide its own fate rests at the foundations of international law today.

The Treaty of Paris (1783):

  • This treaty, signed on September 3, 1783, between the American colonies and Great Britain, ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation.
  • The peace process brought a nascent United States into the arena of international diplomacy, playing against the largest and most established powers on earth.
  • It also established peace between Great Britain and the allied nations of France, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Treaty of Versailles (1919):

  • Treaty of Versailles, peace document signed at the end of World War I by the Allied and associated powers and by Germany in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919; it took force on January 10, 1920.
  • The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties.
  • One of the most important and controversial was: “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm, and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”
  • This article, Article 231, became known as the War Guilt clause which put the responsibility of the entire war on Germany and the other central powers.
  • Prominent economists such as John Maynard Keynes declared the treaty too harsh, a “Carthaginian peace”, and said the reparations were excessive and counter-productive.
  • The harsh measures given in Treaty of Versailles is often regarded as the reason for the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany and is a major reason which led to Second World War.