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International System

People have divided the world into states.

Relationships between countries occur within the context of the international system, also known as the “nation-state system” or the “Westphalian system.”

The “international system” refers to the way that we have divided the world into sovereign states.

Most historians say that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) marks a significant turning point in the way we think about countries. Ultimately, it led to our current nation-state system.

The Peace of Westphalia ended the 30 Years War between Catholics and Protestants in Europe. Before the Peace of Westphalia, the authority of the king and the Church often overlapped. The treaty decreed that the ruler of each kingdom could choose the religion for his or her own land.

The Peace of Westphalia established the principle of sovereignty among European states:

Check Your Understanding

  1. This term refers to the way that we have divided the world up into sovereign states.
  2. What famous treaty established the principle of sovereignty among European states?
  3. What treaty in 1648 is considered important in international relations because it helped to establish our current nation-state system?