The thirty year old war which began in 1618 because of deep religious divide that was in Germany and other parts of Western Europe came to abrupt end at the Peace of Westphalia, signed in 1648. The three main reasons of war are: Protestants and Catholics rivalry within the Roman Empire, the Bourbon–Habsburg conflict for European supremacy and disputes between France and Habsburg. The thirty year war is considered as the ugliest war of Europe which had a huge human cost impacted Germany in a big way. The after effect of the long drawn war included extermination of productive German population, crops were damaged and communicable diseases swelled in the continent and German economy went down under. This paper will argue that although the thirty years war was a national tragedy, grounds for which were prepared by the German Princes, it is untrue to call it a “all-destructive war”.
This paper is divided into three parts: First will explain the motives that begun the war and what was to be accomplished. Second, the different phases and the time periods that they occurred will be explored along with the role of most prominent figures and influences they had on the final result. Third, how Germany was affected during the war and effect there after including fall in population, economic decline and an overall weakening of empire will be given, followed by a conclusion. ``Thirty year war began as a religious war. However to call the thirty years war a religious war is an untruth of sorts in an era when temporal and religious matters were intertwined. Protestants and Catholics were at the center of the war which is divided into four phases: First, Emperor Ferdinand II of Bohemia and Hungary who was a devout catholic took it upon himself “to revive and reimpose the true faith’’ beginning the thirty year old war in Prague. It spread to other parts of the Europe including France, Sweden and other countries. Second, in 1629, The Edict of Restitution was a turning point as well as confirmation of religious motives of the participants in the war. It was seen as an attempt to bring in religious uniformity and imperial absolutism in the empire.
The war lost the religious relevance even as moderate Protestants and Catholic allies of Holy Roman Empire deserted the King. In the Peace of Prague, the King agreed to compromise clearly establishes political motives of the war. Thirdly, Sweden and France’s involvement further disputes the religious motives given. Sweden a pro-protestant nation got involved in a conflict to save the monarchy and agreed to align with Catholic France. The fourth motive was of Cardinal Richelieu, the prince of Catholic Church partnered with Protestants to defeat Spain. The war gave gumption to military entrepreneurs or mercenaries such as Count Mansfeld, Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and Albrecht von Wallenstein, whose involvement also energized the war. Mercenaries played important role. The governments found it difficult to raise armies, this also became a motive for the long drawn war.
Most historians agree that thirty years war achieved nothing. The war experienced in Germany with one principle background of fighting against Holy Roman Empire was as devastating for all the parties who participated. Except for two major events, the beginning of the conflict in 1618 to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the rest were series of mistakes in which in the end no one seemed to have gained. However evidence suggests that ``Protestants triumphed over Catholicism.’’ Secondly, the principalities which owed their allegiance to the Catholic Church shifted their loyalties to Protestants. Thirdly, the empire became secular and gave protection to Calvinists. The thirty years war also for the first time clearly established national interest as the prime mover among the comity of nations. Fourthly, the Habsburgs maintained their hold over the empire including Germany for the next century. Phases and the time...