Book Review of War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648-1713

David Onnekink, editor. War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648-1713.  Politics and Culture in North-Western Europe 1650-1720 series. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7546-6129-0. Charts. Figures. Notes. Index. Pp. xvi, 274. $124.95.

Originally published in The Journal of Military History 74 (October 2010): 1272-73.  The review has been updated.

The traditional historical view is that religion played a limited role in European international relations and warfare after the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).  Historians have argued that political and economic interests prevailed over religion as the primary factors in international relations and the causes of conflict after 1648.  Dr David Onnekink, an Assistant Professor of the Early Modern History of International Relations at the University of Utrecht, has edited a collection of essays written by political, military, cultural, and religious historians that challenge, to various degrees, the traditional belief about the small role of religion in European international relations and warfare between the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and Peace of Utrecht (1713).  The essays examine what has been called the “Dark Alliance” between religion and war.  They stress the relationship between war, foreign policy, and religion.

The first four essays investigate the role of religion in the formulation of foreign policy in France, Spain, England, and the Dutch Republic.  Paul Sonnino looks at Louis XIV’s policy in the era of the Dutch War (1672-78).  He points out that religion, despite some religious dissent at home, played little role in the conflict, which included fighting the Protestant powers of the United Provinces and Brandenburg, as well as the Catholic powers of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor, in the quest to gain the Spanish Netherlands.  But, after the conflict, the Sun King began to rid himself of religious dissention within his borders in the event of a new war.  In his essay, Christopher Storrs argues that Carlos II of Spain (1665-1700) pursued a pragmatic foreign policy allying with Catholic and Protestant powers in the struggle to defend the Spanish Empire against the designs of Louis XIV in Europe.  Even so, religion served a more significant role in the formulation of imperial policy abroad.  Andrew C. Thompson believes that the Protestant interest played an important part in British politics, and religious views influenced foreign policy and the pursuit of a balance of power.  David Onnekink asserts that Dutch foreign policy was swayed by the fear of the perceived Catholic threat of France, England (while James II was on the throne), and the Holy Roman Empire leading up to the outbreak of the Nine Years War (1688-1697).  However, he stresses that the conflict was not fought along religious lines.

Two historians deal with warfare during this period. K.A.J. McLay argues that the perceived role of Providence in battle was being replaced by a growing secular approach to the art of warfare.  He emphasizes the professionalism of operational planning, the structuring of command, and battlefield management in the Nine Years War and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13). Preparation and skill had more to do with victories and defeats than the favor of Providence during this era.  In the other essay, Matthew Glozier studies French Huguenot refugees that fought in Anglo-Dutch supported invasions of France during the Nine Years War, in attempts to force Louis XIV to rethink the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685) that had taken away the right of Huguenots to practice their religion in France.  The author finds nothing predictable about Huguenot militancy.  Some Huguenots were inspired by their religious beliefs, while others fought as professional soldiers (p. 153).

The remaining essays address an assortment of issues. Jill Stern explores the rhetoric in Dutch political pamphlets from 1648 to 1672, and believes that religion continued to be an important factor in the matters of war and peace.  Stéphane Jettot discusses the role of politics and religion in the activities of three English diplomats at Catholic courts in Spain and France from the 1660s to 1680s.  Stephen Taylor looks at the views of the Englishman Roger Morrice with respect to his Protestant-oriented reporting of European events in the Entring Book, a journal of public affairs, in the 1680s.  Emma Bergin investigates Dutch pamphlets concerning the Glorious Revolution in England (1688-89), concluding that the Dutch public continued to see foreign policy issues in religious terms.  Donald Haks delves into how the Dutch States General employed religious rhetoric to unite their countrymen in defense against Louis XIV from 1672 to 1713.

This interesting collection of essays rekindles the debate over the influence of religion in western European politics and warfare in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The authors vary in terms of their methodology and opinions regarding the impact of religion on foreign policy and warfare.  But, these essays serve to show that religion continued to be a factor in international relations and warfare during this period.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota


About William Young

Dr William Young is a retired historian with more than 30 years of experience in teaching and research. He has 18 years of teaching experience at the University of North Dakota and Valley City State University. Moreover, he was a historian in the United States Air Force History Program for 15 years. He possesses a doctoral degree in international and military history and master’s degrees in history and international relations. Young is the author of German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945 (2006), International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great (2004), and European War and Diplomacy, 1337-1815 (2003). He has also written 42 official Air Force unit histories, two monographs, and other studies. Young is the recipient of many history awards, including three U.S. Air Force Historian of the Year Awards and a U.S. Air Force History Program of the Year Award. He has studied and worked for 13 years overseas in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. He has traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. His hobbies include collecting and reading history books and attending college ice hockey games.
This entry was posted in Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th Century, Book Reviews, British Foreign Policy, Dutch Foreign Policy, Dutch War (1672-1778), Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), French Foreign Policy, Nine Years War (1688-1697), Spanish Foreign Affairs, Wars of Louis XIV (1661-1715) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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