This book provides a novel analysis of the evolution of the states system of Europe since the mid-seventeenth century. Andreas Osiander looks at the four major European peace congresses: Munster and Osnabruck (1644-8), Utrecht (1712-15), Vienna (1814-15), and Paris (1919-20) and shows how a prevailing consensus on certain structural concepts - such as the balance of power or national self-determination - has influenced the evolution of the system and determined its stability or lack of stability.
He argues that the structure of the international system is neither a given quantity nor determined primarily by conflict between international actors, but essentially the result of a general agreement expressed in `consensus principles'; these influence the identity of the international actors, their relative status, and the distribution of populations and territories between them. His approach provides a more plausible analysis of international relations and the causes of conflict than traditional theories, and he concludes his study with a review of the period since 1920 in the light of his findings.
`Bold and wide-ranging ... Andreas Osiander offers a new approach to the understanding of his subject ... There is much in this book of interest and the central thesis is a stimulating one.'
English Historical Review