Ian Conners A.P. Euro
Thirty Years War: Meaningful or Meaningless
The Thirty Years War was a series of conflicts that stemmed from the religious upheaval that can be attributed to the Protestant reformation and the wars of religion. The Thirty Years War was a major part of European history because it severely crippled both the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburg's control over central Europe. It was also the end of the wars of religion and the end of centralized rule in Germany. The Thirty Year's War was a meaningful conflict that was a major turning point both religiously and politically in European history.
The Thirty Years war began as a result of the defenestration of Prague. The Defenstration of Prague was an incident in which 2 Catholic administrators ( Vilem Slavata of Chlum and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice ) were thrown out of a 7th story window into a mound of manure ( both lived, only suffering minor injuries). This act was caused by unrest in the largely Protestant Bohemia over the appointing of Fredrick of Styria (a devout Catholic) to be King of Bohemia. This worried the Protestant leaders because they thought they were going to lose their religious rights which were granted by Emperor Rudolph II in 1609. After the defenestration the Bohemian revolt took off, they quickly searched for allies before Fredrick II could retake the throne. They sought admittance into the Protestant union by making Fredrick V, The Elector of the Palatinate the king of Bohemia. This was countered by Ferdinand II winning the support of Maximilian I of Bavaria. Fredinand II and Maximilian I amassed a large army under the command of Baron Tilly. They then proceeded to invade Bohemia and win a decisive victory at the battle of White Mountain, after this battle Fredrick V fled to the Netherlands thus ending the Bohemian revolt. This event ended in a Hapsburg/catholic victory with Ferdinand II regaining the Bohemian crown and Maximilian I gaining control of the Palatinate. This event was important because it set the stage for the thirty years war because it ignited religious anger throughout central Europe (www.TheCaveOnline.com,www.indepthinfo.com).
The Second Phase of the Thirty Years War is known as the Danish phase. In this part of the war the Danish king Christian IV (also Duke of Holstein and a Lutheran) decided to expand into northern Germany due to growing fears of Denmark losing its protestant sovereignty at the hands of the Catholic Ferdinand II. Christian IV amassed an army of roughly 35,000; meanwhile Ferdinand II employed the help of Albrecht von Wallenstein and his army of roughly 50,000. Christian IV underestimated the size of the opposing army and was quickly defeated which resulted in the Ferdinand II gaining control of Holstein and Christian IV remaining king of Denmark but agreeing not to intervene in German affairs again. This phase ends in another Hapsburg/Catholic victory, this is important because it further strengthened Ferdinand II and brought Wallenstein into play for later use (www.TheCaveOnline.com,www.indepthinfo.com).
The third phase of the war is known as the Swedish phase and the fourth phase known as the French phase were closely intertwined. The 3rd phase began when Ferdinand II dismissed Wallenstein due to distrust, this left the door open for Sweden under Gustavus Adolphus to come to the aid of the German Lutherans. The Swedes successfully invaded the HRE and turned the tables on the Catholics, they battled there way through Germany with the Support of France (in the form of financial aid). The Swedes won a pivotal victory at the battle of Breitenfeld in which Baron Tilly commander of the forces of the HRE was killed. After this disaster Ferdinand II went back to Wallenstein for help. The Swedes continued to push south and won another major battle at the Battle of Luetzen but, in this battle Gustavus Adolphus was killed. In 1633 Ferdinand renewed suspicion of Wallenstein, he warranted his arrest but he was killed by another HRE soldier when he was found trying to negotiate with the Swedes. Even after the death of their the Swedes continued to push south but were defeated at the first battle of noerdlingen at the hands of the Spanish imperial army under Cardinal Infante Ferdinand. By 1635 both the Swedish and HRE's forces were exhausted so, the heads of the German protestant states and the Holy Roman Empire met for negotiations and came up with the peace of Prague which generally strengthened the Hapsburgs. But this did not appeal to the French who wanted to see the Hapsburgs completely lose power. The French then declared war on Spain in 1635 and the HRE in 1636 and opening offensives on both fronts, they then coordinated attacks on the HRE with the Swedes especially in Hamburg and Wismar. Although the Swedes had been pushed back into northern Germany by the re-enforced imperial army they regained there momentum with a huge victory at the battle of Wittenstock. As the Swedish army continued their push south France was busy fighting of the Spanish under the leadership of Cardinal Richleau, But these military campaigns were met with disaster and in 1642 cardinal Richleau died. In 1637 Ferdinand II died leaving his son Ferdinand III in power, Ferdinand III was very keen on ending the war through negotiations. This was almost impossible though because of the continued onslaught on southern Germany and Bohemia by the Swedes, with their regained momentum the Swedish army under the command of Marshall Lennart Torstenson won a major victory at the second battle of Breitenfeld. Then in 1643 Louis XIII died leaving his 5 year old son in power, at roughly the same time as this the French general Louis II de Bourbon won a major battle for the French at the battle of Rocroi. Then in 1645 Louis II de Bourbon won a major battle against the Bavarian army at the second battle of Noerdlingen, this coupled with the Swedish victory at Jankau put both Prague and Vienna in severe danger. Then in 1648 the Battle of Prague became the last act of the war and ended when general Koenigsmarck captured the Prague castle where the conflict started 30 years before. These two phases were massively important because they caused the end of the war and ended in a protestant victory. The treaties to follow the end of the war were known as the Peace of Westphalia which included the treaty of Hamburg and the Peace of Muenster (www.TheCaveOnline.com,www.indepthinfo.com).
The war carried heavy tolls on the combatants, around 40% of the German states population and 1/3 of the Czech population were killed (or died of famine or disease) and over 3,500 villages and tows were destroyed during the war. The economies of the countries in central were also wrecked because of the massive cost of the war but, there were major advancements that came out of this conflict. The most important consequence of the war was the fact that it was the last religious war fought in Europe and it was also the end of having mercenary armies by transitioning to having a fulltime professional national army. This is a major step forward because now not only do you no longer have conflict over religion but, you don't have to pay large sums of money to raise an army a mercenary force to fight these wars. This would help to better preserve the economies of countries during wartime. The war also caused the weakening of the HRE (to the point of it being almost completely controlled by the German princes) and the fall of the Hapsburgs. This allowed both Sweden and France to emerge as dominant forces both politically and economically in Europe, this also severely weakened Spain and left only Austria in Hapsburg hands. This also caused the continued decline of the Roman Catholic church especially in central Europe as well as other places, this would eventually give rise to secular states which is another big consequence of the 30 years war. (www.articlemyriad.com). The Thirty Years War was a meaningful event that caused the end of religious wars in Europe. This coupled with the fact that it severely weakened both the HRE and the Hapsburgs makes it a major turning point in European history. This event was one of the most important events in European history.
1. "Thirty Years War 1618-1648." Thirty Years War 1618-1648. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. .
2. "The Wars of Religion and the 30 Years War." The Wars of Religion and the 30 Years War. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. .
3. "The Consequences and Effects of the Thirty Years War." The Consequences and Effects of the Thirty Years War. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. .