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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 19, 2014

Divide and Conquer: The Impact of “Political” Maps on International Relations

  • Steve Pickering EMAIL logo


For researchers and students of International Relations (IR), one date looms larger than all others: 1648. The end of the Thirty Years War, formalized by the signing of the Treaties of Osnabrück and Münster, led to a period known as the “Peace of Westphalia.” Westphalia represented a fundamental change in the power balance of European politics: instead of the Holy Roman Empire holding supreme authority, power would now rest with states themselves, manifested in terms of sovereignty, territory and equality. One of the chief ways in which these “Westphalian” states would cement this authority was through the use of maps. Before 1648, there was little on a European map to indicate where one country ended and another one began. But after 1648, this all changes: these new Westphalian states are represented with bright colors and clearly marked boundaries, defining borders and becoming an important part in creating the state and justifying its sovereignty. The role which maps have played in the spread of the Westphalian state is only just beginning to be researched. Yet the limited efforts to date have all focussed on Europe. This is unfortunate, as today, while Europe has, according to some observers, moved into a stage in which Westphalia is no longer a useful model with which to understand the state and the ways in which it relates to sovereignty, government, power and the individual, the old Westphalian model of the state has more recently been exported all around the world. This paper presents the first part of a project which aims to look at this expansion. The European angle will be presented in this paper; future research will be carried out in China, Japan and Taiwan.

Corresponding author: Steve Pickering, Graduate School of Law, Kobe University, Japan, E-mail: ; ,


This research is funded by the Konosuke Matsushita Memorial Foundation, Grant Number 13-G40.

Map sources

Bibliothèque nationale de France.


Koninklijke Bibliotheek.

Kungliga biblioteket – Sveriges nationalbibliotek.

Universitätsbibliothek Basel.


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Article note

Paper prepared for presentation at the Central University of Finance and Economics workshop, “Advances in Defense & Peace Economics and Peace Science,” 8–11 November, 2013.

Published Online: 2014-6-19
Published in Print: 2014-8-1

© 2014 by De Gruyter

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