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The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy


The Thirty Years’ War by: Sean, Antony, Josh and John

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The 30 years war was a conflict that put most of Europe in ruins. It lasted from 1618 to 1648, and it mostly involved Germany, but the Holy Roman Empire, and many more countries in Europe were involved as well. It was also a conflict between Protestants and Catholics. IT began in 1617 when Emperor Mathias wanted his heir Ferdinand II to be his successor , in order to make sure that a Catholic would be the Emperor. He then continued to closed down protestant churches, and protestants in Bohemia were very unhappy, and they revolted. Hungarians and Austrians joined Bohemia in the revolt, while Ferdinand received the aid of Maximilian of Bavaria, who had the largest army in the empire. With more help from Spain and Poland, Maximilian defeated the Bohemians at White Mountain, near Prague.

The period of 1625 to 1629 was called the Danish period. During this time the ruler of Denmark King Christian IV ironically supported Protestants against Ferdinand II. With the help of Albrecht von Wallenstein and 50,000 men, Ferdinand defeated Christian. Other Protestants elected Fedrick V the king because they didn’t believe that Ferdinand was their king. Frederick was German, Calvanist, and he headed the Protestant Union, which provided him Bohavian rebels.

Alarmed at all the Christian victories King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden became the new protestant leader. Sweden and France formed an alliance and fought against the Hapsburgs. The Swedes won many battles and defeated a notable imperial commander Tilly. They also defeated Ferdinand II and Wallenstein at the Battle of Lutzen, but their leader Gustavus was killed. Later It was discovered that Wallenstein had secret negotiations with Sweden and France, so he was assassinated.

The result of these two peoples deaths was the Treaty of Prague. This strengthened the power of the Hapsurgs and weakened the power of the German Princes. This treaty ended when the French intervened in the war. France had great success against Spain, which allowed the French to send more forces to fight against Germany, which helped Emperor Ferdinand II. Emperor Ferdinand eventually died in 1637, and he was succeeded by his son Ferdinand III. Peaceful negotiations began in 1642, but these negotiations were not successful until 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. This treaty weakened the authority of the Holy Roman emperor. This also expanded the Peace of Augsburg to Calvinist, Catholics, and Lutherans. The end of these wars left Hapsburg Spain isolated.

Because of these wars, the Holy Roman empire was reduced to one nation. The emperor ruled Germany as a monarch, but could not rule over other European countries. Another outcome was that the pope became a minor voice in politics. He would speak out on political affairs, but his comments were ignored. The final outcome was that religious lines were sharply drawn in Europe. Lutherans were mostly located in Scandinavia, Prussia, and some parts in southern Germany. Calvinists lived in Switzerland, Holland, and Scotland. England had its own unique church, and the rest of Europe was mostly Catholic. And because of this religion became less important than national identity.

Harvard University Press, Oct 1, 2009 – 996 pages, by Peter H. Wilson:

A deadly continental struggle, the Thirty Years War devastated seventeenth-century Europe, killing nearly a quarter of all Germans and laying waste to towns and countryside alike. Peter Wilson offers the first new history in a generation of a horrifying conflict that transformed the map of the modern world.

When defiant Bohemians tossed the Habsburg emperor’s envoys from the castle windows in Prague in 1618, the Holy Roman Empire struck back with a vengeance. Bohemia was ravaged by mercenary troops in the first battle of a conflagration that would engulf Europe from Spain to Sweden. The sweeping narrative encompasses dramatic events and unforgettable individuals—the sack of Magdeburg; the Dutch revo.

By war’s end a recognizably modern Europe had been created, but at what price? The Thirty Years War condemned the Germans to two centuries of internal division and international impotence and became a benchmark of brutality for centuries. As late as the 1960s, Germans placed it ahead of both world wars and the Black Death as their country’s greatest disaster.

An understanding of the Thirty Years War is essential to comprehending modern European history. Wilson’s masterful book will stand as the definitive account of this epic conflict.

For a map of Central Europe in 1618, referenced on page XVI, please visit the book feature.

From the Defenestration of Prague in 1618 until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, brutal warfare swept across Europe. In his monumental study of the causes and the consequences of the Thirty Years War, Wilson, a professor of history at the University of Hull in England, challenges traditional interpretations of the war as primarily religious. He explores instead the political, social, economic as well as religious forces behind the conflict—for example, an Ottoman incursion left the Hapsburg Empire considerably weakened and overshadowed by the Spanish empire. Wilson then provides a meticulous account of the war, introducing some of its great personalities: the crafty General Wallenstein; the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, who preserved his state through canny political treaties and military operations; and Hapsburg archdukes Rudolf and Matthias, the brothers whose quarrels marked the future of Bohemia, Austria and Hungary. By the war’s end, ravaged as all the states were by violence, disease and destruction, Europe was more stable, but with sovereign states rather than empires, and with a secular order. Wilson’s scholarship and attention to both the details and the larger picture make his the definitive history of the Thirty Years War. 16 pages of color photos; 22 maps. (Oct.)

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