Our history
Our history

The voice of the Westphalian economy since 1919

The Wirtschaftliche Gesellschaft für Westfalen und Lippe e.V. was formed from the merger of two associations: the "Westfälisch-Lippischer Wirtschaftsbund" based in Bielefeld and the "Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Gesellschaft" based in Münster. Some documents that survived the air raids of the Second World War suggest that the founding year in both cases was 1919.

First lectures and courses

The Wirtschaftsbund wanted to unite the entrepreneurs of the region into a "community of conviction". The aim was to document the unity of Westphalia after the end of the First World War and to present a more positive image of entrepreneurs to the public. Another aim at the time was to create a bastion against the advance of Marxism.

The work of the Wirtschaftsbund laid the foundation for the activities that the Wirtschaftliche Gesellschaft für Westfalen und Lippe would later take on: promoting an understanding of economic interrelationships and discussion of economic policy issues through lectures and courses.

Regression through regime and war

In 1934, both organisations were forced into liquidation by the National Socialists and merged into the new "Economic Society for Westphalia and Lippe". The newly founded organisation was to carry out "educational work in line with the economic policy of the Reich government".

Due to these imposed goals, the activities of the Economic Society largely came to a standstill. Only after the end of the Second World War did it resume its actual tasks.

A new start with newsletters and speakers

As early as 1947, the WWL began publishing a series of publications on economic policy issues. From 1949, a whole series of "newsletters" was added. The lecture events were also resumed and met with a great response. The topics are just as varied as the speakers.

Whether it is "the VAT reform", "the limits of social policy" or "the American century" - the Economic Society discusses these topics just as much as it asks the question "Are we destroying our climate?" and deals with "Life after death".

A day for entrepreneurs

Like its predecessor organisations, the Economic Society for Westphalia and Lippe is primarily active in the Bielefeld and Münster areas. This is particularly evident in the Entrepreneur Days, which were organised by the Economic Society for the first time in 1985. At the first Westphalian Entrepreneurs' Day in April 1985, Otto Wolff von Amerongen - then President of the Association of German Industry and Commerce - gave a lecture on the topic of "What is the turnaround doing? Government policy at half-time".

The speaker at the first East Westphalia-Lippe Entrepreneurs' Day in 1981 was Otto Graf Lambsdorff, then Federal Minister of Economics, who gave a lecture on "Current issues in economic policy". The Entrepreneurs' Day was continued in Münster under the name "Westphalian Business Day" until 2022. Since 2023, its content and concept have been incorporated into the format of the newly created Westphalian Peace Conference.

In the spirit of the Peace of Westphalia

Today, the Economic Society is not only in favour of the market economy, but also particularly in favour of a Europe of the regions. It made its commitment to the principle of subsidiarity in 1994 with the publication of a paper by Dr Peter Nitschke entitled "Confederate Europe - a Eurotopia?".

In 1998, the Economic Society awarded the Peace of Westphalia Prize for the first time, which honours politicians, academics or politically active groups who are committed to the federal organisation of Europe and the active implementation of the subsidiarity principle. The prize is still awarded every two years in Münster's historic town hall.

In 2023, the Westphalian Peace Conference was founded by Managing Director Dr André Vielstädte. Alongside the Peace Prize, this is one of the WWL's main formats and, since the successful inaugural event, now takes place annually on current global peace policy issues in areas of conflict and trouble spots from the fields of politics, business and society.

Would you like to find out more about the history of the WWL? In our commemorative publication "Freies Unternehmertum und Soziale Marktwirtschaft" (Free Entrepreneurship and Social Market Economy) on 100 years of the Economic Society for Westphalia and Lippe, we have compiled interesting facts about 100 years of Westphalian economic history.