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The Thirty Years War

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  522 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Europe in 1618 was riven between Protestants and Catholics, Bourbon and Hapsburg--as well as empires, kingdoms, and countless principalities. After angry Protestants tossed three representatives of the Holy Roman Empire out the window of the royal castle in Prague, world war spread from Bohemia with relentless abandon, drawing powers from Spain to Sweden into a nightmarish...more
Paperback, 536 pages
Published June 30th 2005 by NYRB Classics (first published 1938)
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The Thirty Years War by Cicely Veronica WedgwoodThe Thirty Years War by Peter H. WilsonThe Thirty Years War by Geoffrey ParkerThe Thirty Years War by Ronald G. AschEurope at War, 1600-1650 by David Maland
Books on the Thirty Years War (1618-1648)
1st out of 67 books — 9 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. ShirerThe Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. EvansThe Third Reich in Power by Richard J. EvansIn the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
German History
9th out of 309 books — 77 voters


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Community Reviews

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William
The Peace of Augsburg of 1555 had ensured the coexistence of the landed German princes, many of whom were Lutheran, under the Catholic Hapsburg King Charles V. The Thirty Years War was largely the war of the Counter-Reformation. It was started in 1618 by Ferdinand II, whose rise to the monarchy was marked by great dubiety on the part of his German Electors, among others. He wanted lands lost during the Reformation returned to the Church (Edict of Restitution), as well as the reconversion of "str...more
David
May 17, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: nyrb
1. What is the Thirty Years War?

This is admittedly a half-baked and unfair question—but it's a necessary one too, if only to get one's foot in the door. It's a bit like asking, What is World War I? In response, we can certainly list the belligerent nations, we can outline the (ostensible) military and political goals, we describe the significant events and battles, and we can offer up some (partially speculative, partially causal) analysis of how the war affected and determined that which follow...more
Caroline
Here is a region that is nominally a country, but actually a collection of small states loosely bound and with no central government per se, although it is part of a larger political alliance.. It is split by religious divisiveness, but with intermixed populations ruled by princes who could dictate their subjects’ allowed religion (cuius regio, eius religio). Suddenly the religious question heats up, there are succession issues, princes start to barter for power and land, outside powers tiptoe i...more
Clif Hostetler
I read this book in preparation for a trip to Europe to trace the wandering route of by wife's ancestors. Both her and my ancestors benefited from the Thirty Years War. That's because the devastation caused by the war depopulation much of central Europe making farm land available to people from neighboring regions. Therefore in the mid 1600s following the end of the Thirty Years War, both our ancestors migrated out of the Swiss Canton of Bern into the neighboring Alsace region. Their Anabaptist...more
DoctorM
A classic work, and one I'm thrilled is finally back in print. I first read Wedgwood's "Thirty Years War" when I was high school--- probably because I'd just seen a long-forgotten film called "The Last Valley" with Michael Caine as a mercenary captain in the later years of the war. Wedgwood's account of the war was my introduction to Central Europe in the early modern era, and an introduction to figures like Gustavus Adolphus and Richelieu and the doomed Wallenstein. It's a very British book---...more
Elijah Kinch Spector
When I finished re-reading The Three Musketeers, I decided that it was time to maybe read a bit of the actual history of the period, rather than Dumas' (wonderful) version. I was introduced to Wedgwood by the great Ta-Nehisi Coates.

C. V. Wedgwood moves Heaven and Earth to make the utterly confusing Thirty Years War comprehensible. She succeeds, although it's still pretty confusing. She also writes beautifully and outlines the personages involved with empathy, humor, and gleeful meanness. I doubt...more
Steve
What stays with me from reading The Thirty Years War is the utter devastation wrought on what was later to become Germany. The Civil War gave us Sherman's march to the sea and the intentional trail of devastation meant to shatter the south's will to fight. The military leaders Tilly, Wallenstein, Arnim and Gustavus Adolphus subjected the civilian population to 30 years of continuous plunder and pillaging as they struggled to feed and pay their armies. Hundreds of marches, sieges, burned homes an...more
Anthony
Because the Thirty Years Wars has intrigued me ever since I learned about in high school, I eventually got around to reading CV Wedgewood’s history, which many seem to consider the definitive treatment of the subject in English (despite being several decades old). It does not disappoint.

The book is comprehensive in its treatment of the subject and very well written (though it sounds a bit stilted to today's ear); the prose makes it flow smoothly despite the fact that it can be inherently diffic...more
Brian
Wedgwood's history of the Thirty Years War can be located within that ancient historiographic tradition beginning with Polybius and Thucydides, wherein an objective delineation of events is interwoven with speculative assessments of the major actors' psychological motivations and moral characteristics to produce something which can be appreciated as a work of literature as much as one of scholarship. Wedgwood's narrative is supported with extensive documentary citations, but it is a narrative no...more
Alan
A top-notch narrative history, this book is compellingly readable. While the new Wilson history has much more detail, background and analysis, Wedgwood brings the period alive in a way only the best writers of history can do. She does for 17th Century Europe what James McPherson did for the American Civil War in Battle Cry of freedom. It is interesting, too, to note how a historian’s own perspective can be influenced by the times she lives in. Wedgwood published this in 1938. The Nazi party was...more
Nikolay Nikiforov
Книга поучительная, хотя не вполне вразумительная — впрочем, написана она про войну, которая не была вразумительной совсем.
Кажется, нет в истории такого абсолютного примера войны как игры с отрицательной суммой: от нее никто практически не выиграл, никто не добился своих целей, все потерпели чудовищные убытки, почти никто в ней не хотел участвовать — но после того, как исторический механизм был приведен в движение, его остановило только полное истощение всех участников.
Ну и, наверное, мысли о...more
Jonfaith
This book was loved, without a doubt, despite the lack of causality, it was a narrative feast of how.
Lynn Silsby
Very readable and non-dry. Amazing how much I either forgot or didn't learn in the first place from stuff that was ostensible covered in AP European History or other classes. So, I'm appreciative for this piece of ever-so-gradually-chipping-away-at my ignorance. It was fun to look up the portraits of the major characters on Google Images as they were introduced and discussed.

As much as Wedgwood recognizes the sufferings of the ordinary little people and just how destructive these years of war w...more
Kb
I read the '54 version, so alas, I did not have Anthony Grafton to explain how this book falls into historiography. But it is interesting to think of this book about a war-torn, devastated European continent being written after WWI and reissued after WWII. It's also depressing to know that Wedgwood wrote this book when she was 28. D:

The book helped me understand the scope and the chronology of the Thirty Years' War - something I felt like I had felt my way around but had never made myself really...more
Andrew
Before I read this I couldn't have told you either the century or the country in which the Thirty Years War took place. (1618-1648, Holy Roman Empire.) I read a lot of history but not much on early modern Europe until now.

This is a good intro to the period. Wedgwood keeps the narrative moving along, though it bogs down after a while due to the subject (the war went on for 30 years, after all, so there were a lot of inconclusive battles and turning points quickly reversed). She's especially good...more
Larry
This was an interesting, if very dense read. I knew almost nothing about the subject before so it required close attention. Wedgwood's style is a similar to Gibbon's in its attempt to combine a somewhat ironic tone with an eye for the telling detail, but I didn't find it as engaging as Gibbon (but then, what is?).

The 30 Years War is fascinating because it represents the transition from religious war to nationalist war. Wedgwood admits in her introduction that her between World Wars view of war a...more
Matt
If you like history that is honest about the repercussions of policy and events on the people living through it, Wedgewood does that well, particularly impressive since she did it in 1938.

It's also an amazing lesson in all of the different ways that incompetence, pettiness, hesitation, rashness, greed and countless other forms of flawed leadership can extend a conflict far beyond any reason. This line from her introduction, written for a new edition in the late 50s, serves as a nice mission sta...more
Thomas Armstrong
Although the book was difficult, with a complex web of seventeenth century landgraves, electors, dukes, papal nuncios, margraves, emperors, princes, and more, I found the book really quite interesting reading. It was amazing that the author could put all that complexity into a readable narrative. Even though I wasn't able to follow all the nuances and battles and alliances and rivalries, I still enjoyed reading it.
Neale Aslett
A thoroughly researched and detailed explanation of the causes and ramifications of the 30 years war. Especially well done in laying out the geo-political framework of Europe and their oftimes contradictory nature. If there was ever a coldly worked showing of the evils of religion, this is it.
Marfy
How could anyone make the Thirty Years War interesting? Wedgwood has done it, by means of her narrative skills and her succinct portraits of the many many characters involved, giving us an understanding of their motivations and follies. This was my first encounter with Cecily Wedgwood, and it definitely will not be my last. Highly recommended for anyone fascinated by history.
Joe
Wow. An excellent review in near-narrative form of a complex, and seldom-reviewed (at least in the US) conflict. Other reviews compared Wedgwood's work to Gibbon's, and I think that comparison is fair - although taking place on a much narrower plane in a far more circumscribed historical period, this book carries the sense of the epic one would demand from such a history. Furthermore, Wedgwood clearly has no heroes in this fight - while some men such as Gustavus Adolphus, the mercenary Arnim, Be...more
Patrick
Amazon review:
Initially, the Thirty Years War was precipitated in 1618 by religious conflicts between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. But the conflict soon spread beyond religion to encompass the internal politics and balance of power within the Empire, and then later to the other European powers. By the end, it became simply a dynastic struggle between Bourbon France and Habsburg Spain. And almost all of it was fought out in Germany. After 30 years of conflict, entire region...more
Tim
Wedgewood was a fine writer. The story reads wonderfully, but I can say that the overwhelming emphasis on political history and its military consequences, as well as mini-biographies of political leaders, wore me out quickly. She does not handle religion well - seems to dislike Calvinists generally - and I was just begging for some social and cultural history within a couple of chapters. Tell me more of economics, social customs, the lives of the peasants or life at court, something other than t...more
Matt Ryan
I detailed, comprehensive study of a difficult, cloudy war. Her prose wanders from an overuse of flabby, frequently used dependent clauses in sentences that are already dense in subject matter. But she was a wonderkind historian and can be forgiven her exacting sentence constructions. I would agree that this is the single most important resource for a neophyte to the subject (speaking).
Roger Jebe
This is one of the few books in the English language still in print that covers the Thirty Years War. The book was published in 1938. The book is very well written and authoritative. I guess you'd expect a large cast of characters in a war thirty years long, and I found myself looking up countries I'd not heard of and sorting out rulers with the same names. Fredericks abound. Did you know a large part of what is now Austria was called Styria and it was important? It's an extremely important time...more
Padraic
On hiatus or giving up? I honestly don't know. I tend to trust the NYRB Classics series, and this came with high praise. I was really looking forward to a sweeping overview of one of the most obscure, convoluted periods of European history - one with modern ramifications for anyone contemplating the continued divisions in Western Christendom. Maybe I failed to appreciate how much the ground of historical narrative has shifted in the past 30 years. Or maybe an endless succession of names of minor...more
Andrew
One of the best. A pleasingly written and astute narrative of one Europe's most pointlessly destructive wars. I've kept waiting to get bored with the constant treaties and politics, but Wedgewood's masterfully portraits and (in)humane anecdotes kept it engagingly lively to the very end.
Mike
Engrossing. Written in a very dry, British manner, but still engrossing. An overview of one of the last European wars to be fought not by states, but by individuals, some of whom were motivated by spiritual convictions, others by power, many by a mixture of both. The result being calvalcades of charismatic and often psychopathic princes and their mercernary armies pillaging the crap out of central Europe. Overall, this is probably the best introductory material to what was one of the last and mo...more
Edward
C.V. Wedgwood paints a vivid portrait of the political, religious and social underpinnings of the Thirty Years War. She is neutral in her portrayal of each of the factions treating none with favor. For the person looking to understand the social impact of the war in Europe this is a great book. For those in search of vexillology or numismatic references this is not the book for you. Nor does it delve into strategy and tactics for the military historian. Still an exciting read that gives prevalen...more
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Dame (Cicely) Veronica Wedgwood OM DBE was an English historian who published under the name C. V. Wedgwood. Specializing in the history of 17th-century England and Continental Europe, her biographies and narrative histories "provided a clear, entertaining middle ground between popular and scholarly works."
More about Cicely Veronica Wedgwood...
A Coffin for King Charles: The Trial and Execution of Charles I The King's Peace, 1637-1641 (The Great Rebellion) The King's War, 1641-1647 (The Great Rebellion) William the Silent Richelieu and the French Monarchy

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“It was written in London under the advancing shadow of the Second World War, and it may be that the apprehensionsof those years can be felt vibrating from time to time in its pages. The historian,concerned as he is with the most vital of all studies, is often more subject than herealizes to the electric currents of contemporary mood.” 1 likes
“The nationalist regrets the change; an ill-founded belief in the merits of purity blinds him to the virtues of the foreign and the hybrid.” 0 likes
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