Cover image for The Thirty Years War : Europe's tragedy
The Thirty Years War : Europe's tragedy
Wilson, Peter H. (Peter Hamish)
Uniform Title:
Europe's tragedy
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009.
Physical Description:
xxii, 996 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 24 cm
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. In a major reassessment, Wilson argues that religion was not the catalyst, but one element in a lethal stew of political, social, and dynastic forces that fed the conflict--a conflict that ultimately transformed the map of the modern world.
General Note:
Originally published under title: Europe's tragedy : a history of the Thirty Years War. London : Allen Lane, 2009.
Introduction -- Trouble in the heart of Christendom -- Casa d'Austria -- The Turkish War and its consequences -- Pax Hispanica -- Dominium Maris Baltici -- From Rudolf to Matthias 1582-1612 -- On the brink? -- The Bohemian revolt 1618-20 -- Ferdinand triumphant 1621-4 -- Olivares and Richelieu -- Denmark's war against the emperor 1625-9 -- The threat of European war 1628-30 -- The lion of the north 1630-2 -- Without Gustavus 1633-4 -- For the liberty of Germany 1635-6 -- Habsburg high tide 1637-40 -- In the balance 1641-3 -- Pressure to negotiate 1644-5 -- War or peace 1646-8 -- The Westphalian settlement -- The human and material cost -- Experiencing war.

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D258 .W55 2009 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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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 revolt; the Swedish militant king Gustavus Adolphus; the imperial generals, opportunistic Wallenstein and pious Tilly; and crafty diplomat Cardinal Richelieu. In a major reassessment, Wilson argues that religion was not the catalyst, but one element in a lethal stew of political, social, and dynastic forces that fed the conflict. 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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For this analytical narrative of the 1618-48 wars that devastated central Europe, historian Wilson advances three theses: the wars were not inevitable, were not primarily about religion, and were mostly about the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire. Its constituent parts, from villages up to several electors holding the right to select the emperor, descriptively occupy Wilson's first chapters. Then comes a phrase familiar to avid history readers: the Defenestration of Prague, an attempted murder of imperial officials by Bohemian Protestants that ignited the conflict. Only in retrospect did the strife acquire coherence as the Thirty Years' War, and Wilson incisively cuts through its several phases to recount the objectives and options of the warring parties. Initially pitting the Catholic Hapsburg emperor against the elector of Palatine in alliance with rebellious Bohemia, and seemingly finished with the latter's defeat in the 1620 Battle of White Mountain, the war's subsequent intensifications at the instigation of specific leaders such as Sweden's Gustavus Adolphus buttress the author's position of noninevitability. Confidently argued, clearly written, Wilson's history is superb coverage of this pivotal period in European history.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

The Thirty Years War was a cluster of armed struggles that transformed the interdynastic European political order, administrative structures within states, and the maintenance, training, and use of armies, which mushroomed in size and left broad swaths of devastation, disease, and death in their wake. Wilson's monumental study captures both the complexities of the political and military transformations and the level of brutality that the endemic struggles unleashed. He addresses historiographical debates on every subject and argues cogently for reassessments on issues ranging from the war's destructiveness to the generalship of Wallenstein. For Wilson (Univ. of Hull), earlier unresolved conflicts in Hungary, the Netherlands, and the Baltic Basin had seasoned the generation of leaders that cross his historical stage and would turn an imperial war into a European struggle. Unlike most studies, Wilson devotes as much energy to events after 1635 as to those before. His book focuses on war, but the battles punctuate the broader themes in his account rather than overshadow them. This will be the defining study of the Thirty Years War for the next generation. Includes maps, numerous battle plans, illustrations, tables, discursive endnotes, and a detailed index. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. P. G. Wallace Hartwick College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps and Battle Plans
List of Tables
Note on Form
The Habsburg Family Tree 1500-1665
Note on Currencies
Part 1 Beginnings
Three Men and a Window
The Argument
Trouble in the Heart of Christendom
The Empire
Religion and Imperial Law
Casa d'Austria
Lands and Dynasty
Estates and Confession
The Catholic Revival
The Turkish War and its Consequences
The Turkish Menace
The Ways of War
The Long Turkish War
The Brothers' Quarrel
Pax Hispanica
The Spanish Monarchy
The Dutch Revolt 1568-1609
The Spanish Road
Spanish Peace-making 161
Dominium Maris Baltici
The Divided House of Vasa
From Rudolf to Matthias 1582-1612
Religion and the German Princes
Confession and Imperial Politics to 1608
Union and Liga 1608-9
The Ju¿ lich-Cleves Crisis 1609-10
On the Brink?
Emperor Matthias
The Uskok War and the Habsburg Succession 1615-17 255
Palatine Brinkmanship
Part 2 Conflict
The Bohemian Revolt 1618-20
For Liberty and Privilege
A King for a Crown
Ferdinand Gathers his Forces
White Mountain
Accounting for Failure
Ferdinand Triumphant 1621-4
The Palatine Cause
Protestant Paladins
The Catholic Ascendancy 1621-9
Olivares and Richelieu
The Valtellina
Denmark's War against the Emperor 1625-9
Trouble in Lower Saxony
Denmark's Defeat 1626-9
The Threat of European War 1628-30
The Baltic
The Netherlands
Mantua and La Rochelle
The Edict of Restitution
The Regensburg Electoral Congress 1630
The Lion of the North 1630-2
Swedish Intervention
Between the Lion and the Eagle
The Swedish Empire
Calls for Assistance
Without Gustavus 1633-4
The Heilbronn League
Tension along the Rhine
Spain Intervenes
Wallenstein: the Final Act
The Two Ferdinands
For the Liberty of Germany 1635-6
Richelieu Resolves on War
The War in the West 1635-6
The Peace of Prague 1635
Appeals to Patriotism
Renewed Efforts for Peace
Habsburg High Tide 1637-40
Resolution on the Rhine
Peace for North Germany?
In the Balance 1641-3
The Franco-Swedish Alliance 1641
The War in the Empire 1642-3
Spain's Growing Crisis 1635-43
From Breda to Rocroi 1637-43
Pressure to Negotiate 1644-5
The Westphalian Congress
France in Germany 1644
The Baltic Becomes Swedish 1643-5
1645: Annus horribilis et mirabilis
War or Peace 1646-8
A Crisis of Confidence 1646
Towards Consensus
Spain's Peace with the Dutch
The Final Round 1648
Part 3 Aftermath
The Westphalian Settlement
The International Dimension
A Christian Peace
The Imperial Recovery
The Human and Material Cost
An All-destructive Fury?
The Demographic Impact
The Economic Impact
The Crisis of the Territorial State
Cultural Impact
Experiencing War
The Nature of Experience
Military-Civil Relations