The Thirty Years War

Wladyslaw Roczniak

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
The Thirty Years War

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The Thirty Years War, a multifaceted and multinational political and military conflict that raged over central Europe between 1618 and 1648 has often been considered, at least in the scope of misery and destruction it brought to those experiencing it, as a disaster comparable to, if not greater than, the two world wars and the Black Death. The suffering and heroism of both the combatants and the hapless victims of the fighting has burned itself into the national literatures and historical consciousness of that age and those ages that follow. While information on the extent of the material losses is sketchy, recent scholarship estimates human casualties to be in excess of millions, or about 15 to 20 percent of the prewar population of the region. Added to the sheer human dimension of the conflict are its social and political consequences—its beginning is usually associated with the start of perhaps the last religious war of the Reformation, and its end is often considered to be the first stepping stone in the development of the modern nation-state. As such, what began as a revolt of one constituent element of that burdensome and overcomplicated quasi-state called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and soon engulfed many of the premier European Houses and nations, has been pegged by many historians to be an event standing at the crossroads of modernity; an extremely violent outburst of premodern political and religious sentiment staring down the precipice of a political and diplomatic paradigm shift that altered the face of Europe and, by extension, of the world. Over the course of three and a half centuries following the conclusion of the conflict, the war has inspired a myriad of historical viewpoints and interpretations, with its causes and consequences, personalities, phases, and military actions analyzed and reanalyzed from a variety of political, national, and social standpoints. A full bibliography on the Peace of Westphalia, for instance—the treaty concluding the war—would list several thousand works alone, and that would be just one aspect of the whole production.

Article.  8663 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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