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The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy…

The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy (2009)

by Peter H. Wilson

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5411028,486 (3.95)17

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In his book "Europe's Tragedy", author Peter H Wilson skilfully navigates the ever-changing patchwork of lands, estates and religions in the sixteenth century for us. He leaves us in no doubt that this was a very messy period in European history, where allegiances were switched, and sometimes switched back again, on the whim, beliefs or inclinations of the rulers and power-brokers of that day.

Allied to these changes, as well, were developments in military theory and technology, which the author also covers, including the surprising (to me) revelation that poison gas shells were used in the Netherlands as early as the 1590's.

A very comprehensive exposition of the state of Europe leading up to the 30 Years' War is followed by an equally thorough chronology of the conflict itself, from the Bohemian Revolt of 1618-20 to the Westphalia Settlement of 1648.

Finally, an assessment of the Peace of Westphalia is given, and in particular its methods and ideals (rather than the conflicts it resolved, not always successfully), and as a marker for future international development.

Peter Wilson's book is also richly illustrated, and includes a map of Central Europe in 1618 showing the then boundaries of the holy Roman Empire and the patchwork of other empires, kingdoms and territories in and around it.

This is a detailed and scholarly study into this often overlooked part of European history. ( )
2 vote SunnyJim | Jul 31, 2016 |
I am currently reading this book and struggling in the process. The thirty years war is intrinsically confusing (e.g. there are dozens of figures with shifting alliances and borders and everyone seems to be named Frederick or Ferdinand). This book manages to make a confusing epoch even more confusing.

My personal feeling is that this book really does contain the right level of detail but the details are presented in ways that maximize confusion. For example, within one paragraph, events jump from one end of Europe to the other based upon references to obscure little villages.

I would recommend this book only for people that already know the subject in detail and have a commanding knowledge of the geography and villages of Europe. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 28, 2016 |
This is really complicated 30 years of religious war. His conclusion is that people were cynically manipulated by way of religion to fight for the elite. It was, like any other war, a rich man's war and a poor man's fight which in 1648 left thousands of men without hope or a trade, they have only learned fighting. ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
5253. The Thirty Years War Europe's Tragedy, by Peter H. Wilson (read 10 Mar 2015) Even though I read and hugely appreciated C. V. Wedgwood's book on the 30 Years War--it was my Book of the Year in 1968--I thought I should read this more recent book. It is indeed a formidable work (852 pages of text, 72 pages of Notes) but I found it much less enjoyable since it drowns one in detail. Not only do we have maps of the famous battles (which I remembered well from my Class in Modern European History taught by Father Bill Green at Loras in 1946-1947) White Mountain in 1620, Breitendfeld in 1631, Nordlingen in 1634, but we also have accounts and maps of 22 other battles. i confess I felt overwhelmed by detail which no doubt would be appreciated by a war gamer but I felt it did not hold my interest well. After the book opens with an account of the Defenestration of Prague on May 23, 1618, it is not till page 269 that the war begins--the lead-up to the war was not that necessary, I could not help but feel. The book certainly shows the dire effects of the war on the areas of Europe affected, and there is much about the account full of interest. But I am not eager to read more about the war after slogging through these pages. ( )
2 vote Schmerguls | Mar 10, 2015 |
Well writtten but nevertheless heavy going because of its extremely detailed character, with every movement of troops, opinions, positions listed. A bit too much of a good thing ( )
1 vote peterveen | Feb 13, 2014 |
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"This is one of the few blind spots in what is otherwise a wonderfully comprehensive and detailed account. Although not always an easy read, it is unfailingly instructive and stimulating."
added by bookfitz | editThe Telegraph, Tim Blanning (Aug 2, 2009)
"It is to Wilson’s credit that he can both offer the reader a detailed account of this ­terrible and complicated war and step back to give due summaries. His scholarship seems to me remarkable, his prose light and lovely, his judgments fair."
The war fought between 1618 and 1648 remains, by many measures, the most destructive in Europe's history. During those years the Holy Roman Empire—which governed most of the European continent east of the Rhine—lost as many as eight million subjects, or a staggering 20% of its population. This amount to three times Europe's death rate during World War II. Whole swaths of central Europe were depopulated, abandoned to wild pigs and wolves.
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Shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday 23 May 1618, Vilem Slavata found himself hanging from a window of the Hradschin castle in Prague.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674036344, Hardcover)

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.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.

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