The Habsburgs and the Holy League: Religion or Realpolitik?

In: The Treaties of Carlowitz (1699)

Abstract

The Peace of Westphalia has been hailed not only for ending the devastating Thirty Years’ War, but for freeing Protestant Europe from the dual threats posed by Habsburg hegemony and Counter-Reformation revanchism. It also lessened the prevalent confessional affinities and animosities between states, thereby enabling them to make more rational, strategic calculations in their pursuit of Realpolitik. But the retreat of Spain also created a more permissive environment for international outlawry and aggression by other European actors, most notably France. When the Turks marched into central Europe, the Austrian Habsburgs’ pursuit of reliable allies was mortgaged by their neighbors’ exposure to multiple security threats of their own. As a result, many Christian states declined to make meaningful contributions because they needed to resist pressure from France, or other predatory states like Sweden, England, Russia or the Ottomans themselves. One exception was the Papacy which was essentially immune to aggression from Catholic France. In the end, a combination of intense Austrian and Papal diplomacy brought together a critical mass of Catholic and Protestant states that were (unlike the Pope) less motivated by Christian religious fervor than by the prospects of advantageous subsidy treaties, easy territorial pickings and martial glory.

The Treaties of Carlowitz (1699)

Antecedents, Course and Consequences

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