The Ashgate Research Companion to The Thirty Year’s War, edited by Olaf Asbach and Peter Schroder
When I asked to review this book from the Michigan War Studies Review , the fellow in charge of sending out materials asked me if I was a glutton for punishment. Most people who know me well would have no problem understanding this to be the case, and it certainly is when reading a fairly weighty book (it contains over 300 pages of small print divided into 25 essays, each of which will require its own mini-review to the War Studies Journal, making that book review a 4000 word assignment, which is a long book review even by my standards). Although I have only finished reading the introduction so far, this particular book looks like something that I will enjoy having on my library, not least because of the importance of the Thirty Year’s War, which has even found its way to a couple of my plays. Many of my own family were commonvolk from areas like the Dutch Republic and Germany and Switzerland who were powerfully affected by the Thirty Years War, which appears in some cases to have influenced a desire to leave Germany after the horrors of that war left Germany’s population decreased by a quarter or a third as a result of the warfare and the resulting famine and disease that it caused.
The Thirty Year’s War is a complicated affair. Included in it are aspects of Czech nationalism , the desires of German princes of all religious beliefs to preserve their freedoms from the increase of Imperial Hapsburg control, the confessional divisions between Catholic and Protestant and within the Protestant camp between Lutheran and Calvinists (who were not recognized as distinct at the Peace of Augsburg in 1555), the de facto independence of the Swiss cantons and the Dutch Republic although both were still legally a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the imperialist designs (whether offensive or defensive) of the Hapsburgs (both Spanish and Austrian), the French, the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch, and others, including Italian states caught in the rivalry between Spain and France. The implications of this massive war even affected those nations on the periphery of Europe, including the Ottoman Empire and England, and even involved colonial conflicts between various nations. There were numerous efforts at peace, including an attempt to dictate peace by the victorious Imperial armies in 1629, a later attempt at peace within Germany in 1635 which was ended by the entry of France and Spain formally into the conflict (as opposed to merely informally, as before), and then the final peace among the nations in the German front in 1648 (which was opposed fiercely by the Papacy, which refused to grant the legitimacy of Protestant princes to exist or be considered as valid international actors within Christendom), and the later peace between France and Spain in 1659.
Needless to say, this is a book I am looking forward to reading, even if a lot of the research that is cited by the international group of authors is in languages that I do not understand (namely German, Swedish, and Danish, if not others). This particular war marked the decline of the Papacy in being able to achieve international support (even from other Catholic nations) with regards to its views on a geopolitical level, and helped preserve the division of Italy and Germany that made the 1800’s such a tumultuous century in those areas as peripheral states in both areas (Brandenburg-Prussia in Germany and Piedmont-Savoy in Italy, both of which had pivotal roles in the Thirty Year’s War and its aftermath, ended up as the states which gained the most from the successful push for unity in both areas. As might be expected for a book about such a complicated period of time, there are a lot of different views about different people and different parties involved, as well as their goals and achievements (or failures). As the book has already gotten praise about being worth a place in every scholarly library that focuses on the conflict (mostly in Europe, I would imagine; my reading tastes, like so much in my life, are somewhat unconventional at times), I look forward to seeing whether it deserves an honored place in mine.
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