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Throughout history there have been numerous conflicts that encompassed large portions of Europe, yet there very few that compare to the scale of warfare seen during the Thirty Years War.
The Thirty Years War was a smaller series of wars, very much like the Northern Wars (previously written about) that were fought between 1618 and 1648 mainly in Central Europe (Modern. Germany) and involved most of the European Powers of the era. The Thirty Years War is remembered as one of the longest and most destructive in European history prior to the two World Wars. It is also one of the longest continuous wars in modern history.
Pinpointing the cause of the war is highly debated among historians, and no one can truly agree on a single cause that accurately explains the cause for war. Originally it was described as a religious war between Protestantism and Catholicism in the Holy Roman Empire, yet this theory weakens when it is realised that disputes within both religions over internal politics and the balance of power played a significant part in the wars escalation over the years. As the years went on, the war became less about religion than it did about the continuation of the Bourbon-Habsburg Rivalry to control Europe.
The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 ended the war between German Lutherans and Catholics but did not resolve the underlying religious issues, which were made worse by the spread of Calvinism throughout Germany in the following years. Calvinism became a third major religion in the region that was not recognised by Augsburg. The Holy Roman Empire, which was already fragmented in hundreds of small city states began to rival each other over religious beliefs, leading to what is considered to be a spill into surrounding states.
Without going in into extreme details, as you can study the conflict for yourself, the warfare within the Holy Roman Empire led to the Bohemian Revolt between 1618 and 1621 and again between 1621 and 1625, followed by the Huguenot Rebellion between 1620 and 1628, all of which had the support of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman support led to the Danish Intervention (1625-29), the Swedish Intervention (1630-35), and the French Intervention (1635-48).
By the time of the Peace of Westphalia, an estimated 8,000,000 people were dead, and much of Europe lay in ruins. The Habsburg supremacy was curtailed, the rise of the Bourbon Dynasty began, the Rise of the Swedish Empire began its climax. The War led to the decline of feudalism, and the decentralisation of the Holy Roman Empire, and a decline in the influence of the Catholic Church in Europe.
List of Belligerents:
The Protestant States and Allies:
United Provinces of the Netherlands
Electorate of the Palatinate
Hungarian Anti-Habsburg Rebels
Roman Catholic States and Allies:
Holy Roman Empire (Catholic League, Austria, Kingdom of Hungary, and Kingdom of Croatia)
To learn more about the Thirty Years War please see: ]
The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy (2009) by Peter H. Wilson
The Thirty Years War (1982) by C.V. Wedgwood
The Thirty Years War (2002) by Stephen J. Lee
Remembering History - the Thirty Years War, an All European Conflict with more than 8,000,000 Casualties