Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Thirty Years' War (general survey)

Introduction The Thirty Years War is one of the great conflicts of early modern European history. It consisted of a series of declared and undeclared wars that raged through the years 1618-1648 throughout central Europe. It was
  • A geopolitical war between the House of Austria (the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III together with their Spanish cousin Philip IV) and their opponents, Denmark, the United Provinces, France and Sweden.
  • A German civil war. The principalities that made up Germany took up arms for or against the Habsburgs or, most commonly, both at different times during the war’s 30 years.
  • A religious war among Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists. Ferdinand II and, to a lesser degree, his primary ally Maximillian I represented the re-Catholicizing zeal of the Jesuit Counter-reformation, while Frederick V of the Palatinate represented the equally militant forces of Calvinism.
  • A war that was difficult to control as power increasingly rested with the army commanders: Tilly, Spinola, Wallenstein.
Background Under the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 Lutheranism had been given official recognition in the Holy Roman Empire, the principle of cuius regio euis religio had been established and church property in Lutheran areas was secularized.

The Thirty Years' War (Paul Kennedy)

Jacques Callot, Les Misères et les Malheurs de la Guerre (1632). There are are some useful websites for the Thirty Years' War which provide really comprehensive information. You might as well like to follow up this link for the most fascinating of all the protagonists in that dreadful conflict, Albrecht von Wallenstein. This summer the Chichester Festival Theatre put on Schiller's play, Wallenstein. I copied and pasted the piece below from the Sunday Times, 19 July 2009. It is a splendid piece by the historian, Paul Kennedy, a rave review of Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years' War by Peter H. Wilson. You can see the original here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Seventeenth-century Europe: an overview

Above is the Hendrick Avercamp's Winter with ice-skating (1608). Click to enlarge. The seventeenth-century
‘stands in transition between on the one hand the relatively prosperous and dynamic sixteenth century, with its major religious debates, its overseas expansion and economic growth…and on the other hand, the more relaxed and expansive eighteenth century…where many intellectual and cultural trends came together in the Enlightenment. Boxed in by the Muslim world in the Mediterranean, threatened by recurrent warfare both amongst the European powers and overseas, and at times overwhelmed by disease and starvation…seventeenth-century Europe was under siege. Thomas Munck, Seventeenth-Century Europe (2005).

The European states

European frontiers were unstable. 

There was no clear demarcation between the lands of the Ottoman Sultan and those of the Habsburg Emperors. Transylvania recognized Turkish suzerainty. Moldavia and Wallachia were Christian provinces within the Ottoman Empire. Belgrade was Turkish until 1688.

At the end of the century the Russian empire expanded westwards. Poland and Sweden lost territory.

The eastern frontier of France became a major theatre of war in the 17th century.

States and Dynasties

Emperor Ferdinand II (1578-1637)

There were two branches of the Habsburg dynasty.