Thirty Years War

Categories: War

The thirty year old war which began in 1618 because of deep religious divide that was in Germany and other parts of Western Europe came to abrupt end at the Peace of Westphalia, signed in 1648. The three main reasons of war are: Protestants and Catholics rivalry within the Roman Empire, the Bourbon–Habsburg conflict for European supremacy and disputes between France and Habsburg. The thirty year war is considered as the ugliest war of Europe which had a huge human cost impacted Germany in a big way.

The after effect of the long drawn war included extermination of productive German population, crops were damaged and communicable diseases swelled in the continent and German economy went down under. This paper will argue that although the thirty years war was a national tragedy, grounds for which were prepared by the German Princes, it is untrue to call it a “all-destructive war”. This paper is divided into three parts: First will explain the motives that begun the war and what was to be accomplished.

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Second, the different phases and the time periods that they occurred will be explored along with the role of most prominent figures and influences they had on the final result. Third, how Germany was affected during the war and effect there after including fall in population, economic decline and an overall weakening of empire will be given, followed by a conclusion. ``Thirty year war began as a religious war. However to call the thirty years war a religious war is an untruth of sorts in an era when temporal and religious matters were intertwined.

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Protestants and Catholics were at the center of the war which is divided into four phases: First, Emperor Ferdinand II of Bohemia and Hungary who was a devout catholic took it upon himself “to revive and reimpose the true faith’’ beginning the thirty year old war in Prague. It spread to other parts of the Europe including France, Sweden and other countries. Second, in 1629, The Edict of Restitution was a turning point as well as confirmation of religious motives of the participants in the war.

It was seen as an attempt to bring in religious uniformity and imperial absolutism in the empire. The war lost the religious relevance even as moderate Protestants and Catholic allies of Holy Roman Empire deserted the King. In the Peace of Prague, the King agreed to compromise clearly establishes political motives of the war. Thirdly, Sweden and France’s involvement further disputes the religious motives given. Sweden a pro-protestant nation got involved in a conflict to save the monarchy and agreed to align with Catholic France.

The fourth motive was of Cardinal Richelieu, the prince of Catholic Church partnered with Protestants to defeat Spain. The war gave gumption to military entrepreneurs or mercenaries such as Count Mansfeld, Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and Albrecht von Wallenstein, whose involvement also energized the war. Mercenaries played important role. The governments found it difficult to raise armies, this also became a motive for the long drawn war. Most historians agree that thirty years war achieved nothing.

The war experienced in Germany with one principle background of fighting against Holy Roman Empire was as devastating for all the parties who participated. Except for two major events, the beginning of the conflict in 1618 to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the rest were series of mistakes in which in the end no one seemed to have gained. However evidence suggests that ``Protestants triumphed over Catholicism. ’’ Secondly, the principalities which owed their allegiance to the Catholic Church shifted their loyalties to Protestants.

Thirdly, the empire became secular and gave protection to Calvinists. The thirty years war also for the first time clearly established national interest as the prime mover among the comity of nations. Fourthly, the Habsburgs maintained their hold over the empire including Germany for the next century. Phases and the time periods that occurred during the War There are four phases of thirty years war which began in 1618 fought mainly in Germany:

1. Palatine-Bohemian (1618–25). 2. Danish (1625–29). 3. Swedish (1630–35). 4. French (1635–48). Palatine-Bohemian (1618–25) During this period protestant churches were partly damaged as well as restrictions were placed on Protestants free rights of worship. The Augsburg Treaty signed by the officials of the emperor’s with an aim of forming a concrete Roman Catholic power received much resistance from various religious organizations. This was followed by a series of protests including Evangelical Union of Bohemian of Protestants who protested heavily against the unfair Roman Catholic policies as well as hierarchy.

The situation became worse with many of the Protestants demanding the intervention of Ferdinand 11. Being a serious Roman Catholic as well as presumptive successor of the Habsburg the king of Bohemia ignored the Protestants appeal making the situation worse. Giving the Protestants a deaf ear by king resulted in Defenestration of Prague act in where a section of Protestants from Prague attacked the king’s palace on May 23, 1618, seizing two ministers of the king which marked a period. Rebellions from the Protestants spread tremendously in various parts of Habsburg threatening the capital city.

In the year 1619, Ferdinand’s crown was bestowed by Bohemians, a situation which made part of Evangelical Union Protestant, primarily the Lutherans, withdraw from the war since the bestowed king Ferdinand was a Calvinist. The war continued for some time in which the Protestants finally achieved their victory under the new king. Protestants continued with their struggle hence in the year 1622, they defeated Tilly’s army. Danish (1625–29) This phase was associated with international proportions.

During this period many of the Germany Protestants were forced to seek foreign assistance in fighting the resurgent Catholicism. Various foreign countries such as England, France and other Christians teamed up to help German Protestants fight. With the support of various Lutherans as well as Calvinist Princes, many Christians all over Germany organized troops of army which later on invaded Saxony. During this period the Protesting Christians received little resistance until after a year when Wallenstein and duke of Friedlan created an army which was more powerful then the one of the Protesting Christians.

Total victory was attained by the Christian Protestants in the year 1629, during the period of Ferdinand when he issued Restitution Edict, a document nullifying all the Protestant titles to Roman Catholics properties. Swedish (1630–35) During this phase the Wallenstein’s army under the command of Gustav captured Magdeburg on May 20, 1631 which was a state occupied by insurrection Protestants who were opposed to Holy Roman Empire. During the war many Protestants were massacred as well as the entire city of Bohemian was totally destroyed with fire.

This period can be seen to have consisted primarily of war battles between Wallenstein troops against the Protestants. During this period many of the Protestants were killed in various occasions by the Wallenstein’s imperial army troops, a situation which forced many of the Protestant coalition leaders to quickly abandon the struggle. This led to the signing of Peace of Prague (1635) eventually putting an end to the third stage. Additionally, during this phase concessions with the Saxon Lutherans was done, a meeting which resulted in the Edict of Restitution modification.

French (1635–48). In this phase war was considered conflict between Habsburgs as well as France. At this point religion did not matter, though this phase was associated with terror wars between Spain, which was Chief Habsburg supporter, and France. During this period France teamed up with other groups from Sweden as well as Protestant Leaders from Germany, among them Duke Bernhard to overcome various difficulties encountered in the first phase of fighting. With various combined efforts, Habsburg position was challenged forcing the imperial forces to surrender to European strongholds.

Peace of Westphalia. This the last phase, in which a treaty was signed on Oct 24, 1648 that had a great influence on the European history. The treaty established Switzerland and Dutch Republic as independent states. Additionally, the signed treaty under this phase weakened the Holy Roman Empire making France the chief power of the European Continent. Effects of War on Germany The war had a major effect on Germany because it resulted in economic as well as political unification problems especially when France was made the chief power of European Continent.

The war has vast economical, social as well as cultural effects on Germany. The population of Holy Roma Empire dropped from 15% to 20%. Many villages as well as fortified towns suffered greatly except port cities of Hamburg and Bremen. Additionally, many people were killed during the war affecting the economic growth of the country. All the economic activities of the country went down; uncertainty and disruption were the order of the day. This situation has remained in the memory of many citizens for years.

Conclusion Thirty years of war experienced by Germany which was believed to have begun due to religious divisions had devastating effect on the Germany which over the years has remained in the minds of many for centuries now. The period marked by various phases was associated with wars between various religious organizations. Many people lost their lives in the process of fighting causing a significant effect on the economic status of Germany.

Updated: Jun 05, 2020
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Thirty Years War. (2017, Jan 02). Retrieved from

Thirty Years War essay
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