Book Review of Mazarin’s Quest: The Congress of Westphalia and the Coming of the Fronde

Paul Sonnino. Mazarin’s Quest: The Congress of Westphalia and the Coming of the Fronde. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-674-03182-1. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. vii, 307. $56.50.

Dr Paul Sonnino, Professor of History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, examines the diplomatic talks that led to ending the Thirty Years War in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  The author is well-known as a leading scholar of French diplomatic history, and is the author of numerous journal articles and studies such as Louis XIV’s View of the Papacy, 1661-1667 (1966), Louis XIV and the Origins of the Dutch War (1988), and (as editor) The Reign of Louis XIV (1990).

In this study, Sonnino explores the diplomacy of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (Giulio Mazarini), who rose to prominence after the death of Cardinal Richelieu in 1642.  The Italian-born cardinal, in alliance with the Queen-Mother (Anne of Austria), took control of the French government and foreign policy during the minority of the young Louis XIV (1643-1661). Mazarin, in alliance with Sweden and the Dutch Republic, sought to achieve victory in the Thirty Years War against the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand III and Philip IV of Spain.  The author discusses military campaigns and many diplomatic moves that forced the Holy Roman Emperor to agree to French terms in the Peace of Westphalia.  It is interesting to note that Mazarin increased his demands as negotiations progressed.  In the end, the cardinal acquired the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, along with a large part of the province of Alsace for France in the Treaty of Münster.  France and Sweden became the guarantors of the overall peace settlement in the Holy Roman Empire.  Despite this success, Mazarin, ignoring his own diplomats and Dutch inputs, pushed the Spanish too far, seeking to gain territory in the Low Countries, and failed to obtain a peace settlement with Spain.  The Franco-Spanish conflict would continue for eleven more years until the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659).  Sonnino suggests that Mazarin’s failure to obtain a peace treaty with Spain contributed to the outbreak of the Fronde (1648-1653).

This study is based on a significant amount of research in numerous European archives.  Sonnino’s research is reflected in the ninety-five pages of notes, about thirty percent of the book.  The work joins several recent studies, including Derek Croxton’s Peacemaking in Early Modern Europe: Cardinal Mazarin and the Congress of Westphalia, 1643-1648 (1999) and David Parrott’s Richelieu’s Army: War, Government and Society in France, 1624-1642 (2001), that explore French military and diplomatic history in the later part of the Thirty Years War.  This reviewer recommends this book to students and scholars interested in the diplomatic and military history of Early Modern Europe.

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 Book Reviews, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659), French Foreign Policy, Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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