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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nicaea and sovereignty : Constantine's Council of Nicaea as an important crossroad in the development of European state sovereignty Bateman, Craig Garfield


This research is concerned with the development of international law in so far as it relates to the historical background for the Peace of Westphalia, which itself is understood as a seminal event in the history of the growth of both the theoretical notion of sovereignty and, in its present milieu, as an attribute of states. This research gets behind Westphalia, to suggest a plausible nexus of ideology and events which led to these treaties, and to focus specifically on the event which I suggest was the sin qua non development which led to the Westphalian concord. I suggest that the course set for the Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. best explains both the context and initial impetus for the treaty-making at the Peace of Westphalia in the seventeenth century. I also suggest that the similarities between the two politically charged congresses are far more than random correlatives. In this research I will discuss the importance of Nicaea to Westphalia and also discuss some of the historical lineage pursuant to the idea of state sovereignty and look at its ultimate interconnectedness with the Christian religion. My suggestion in this research is that the late antiquity transformation of the Christian church from spiritual and cultural governance to temporal imperial sovereignty in Europe suggests a trenchant indication of what Nicaea represented in terms of setting a trajectory for the church's political sovereignty, a sovereignty which ultimately begun to be wrested back from it at Westphalia. This research suggests that the sovereignty which characterized the Late Antiquity Roman Empire under the Emperor Constantine was bequeathed to the Christian Church at Nicaea by fiat. In other words, this research is suggesting a starting point for the development of European sovereignty at which Europe's most enduring institution of eighteen-hundred plus years was the main actor: the Roman Catholic Church.

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