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National Minorities and the European Nation-States System$
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Jennifer Jackson Preece

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294375

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198294375.001.0001

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Minority Rights from Westphalia to Berlin (1648–1878)

Minority Rights from Westphalia to Berlin (1648–1878)

(p.54) (p.55) Chapter 4 Minority Rights from Westphalia to Berlin (1648–1878)
National Minorities and the European Nation-States System


Oxford University Press

Far from being a post-Cold War development, international relations that have to do with the position of minorities in Europe possess an identifiable history not only in the twentieth century but from the 1640s onwards. By examining treaties and other elements of international law and diplomacy, this chapter identifies and summarises the most historically significant trends in international minority protection prior to 1919. Minority rights in their earliest political formulation were freedoms of worship bestowed by the sovereign upon nonconformist religious communities in territories newly acquired from another prince. As nationalism slowly replaced religion in determining European loyalties and identities, this initial formulation began to change. Already, in the 1815 Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, minorities were being defined as national groups and the rights granted to them included civil and political liberties as well as religious freedoms. By 1878, this new, national formulation had completely replaced the older, religious formulation of minority rights, and the problem of minorities was linked to the rise of new nation-states.

Keywords:   minority rights, international relations, Congress of Westphalia, Congress of Vienna, Congress of Berlin, nation-states, Europe, minority protection, religion, minorities

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