Thirty Years’ War

1618-48. This highly complex conflict in central Europe was three struggles telescoped into one-Protestants vs. Catholics in Germany, a civil war in the Holy Roman Empire between the emperor and estates, and an international contest between France and the Hapsburgs (Austrian and Spanish) for European hegemony in which other powers were implicated. Historians commonly divide the war into four periods:

(1) Bohemian, 1618-23. Hostilities began with the Bohemian revolt against the Hapsburgs (Defenestration of Prague, 1618). The Czechs deposed Emperor Ferdinand II* (1619-37) as king, replacing him with the Calvinist head of the Protestant Union, Frederick V, Elector Palatine. The Catholic League leader, Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, supplied the emperor with an army commanded by Count Tilly which crushed the rebellion in 1620 (Battle of White Mountain). In Bohemia a ruthless policy of reconversion, expulsion, and confiscation of Protestant property ensued. In 1521 Ferdinand gave Frederick's electoral title to Maximilian, Tilly overran the Palatinate, and Spain and Bavaria partitioned it.

(2) Danish, 1625-29. The controversial Albrecht von Wallenstein raised an imperial army for Ferdinand, while King Christian IV of Denmark entered the war with English subsidies. Wallenstein and Tilly subjugated N Germany in 1626-28, and Ferdinand concluded the Peace of Lübeck with Christian in 1629. He also issued an Edict of Restitution which ordered the restoration of church lands secularized since 1552.

(3) Swedish, 1630-35. Because of Catholic opposition to his vague nationalistic schemes, Wallenstein was dismissed soon after Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus* landed in Germany. Traditionally viewed as the Protestant savior of Germany, he has more recently come to represent the intervention of foreigners that caused the war to degenerate into a quest for power. The Protestant forces defeated the imperial army at Breitenfeld (1631), plundered Bavaria, and captured Prague. At Tilly's death in early 1632, Ferdinand recalled Wallenstein. Gustavus was killed at Lützen (November 1632), while Wallenstein was dismissed for privately negotiating with the enemy and was assassinated in 1634. At the Peace of Prague in 1635 a compromise was reached over the Edict of Restitution.

(4) French, 1635-48. Further devastation resulted as France, the ally of Sweden and the German Protestants, battled Austria, Spain, and Bavaria. After years of negotiation the Peace of Westphalia* was concluded at Münster and Osnabrück on 24 October 1648. The Franco-Spain and Baltic struggles continued outside Germany for another decade.

The peace marked the end of both the medieval papacy's political influence (Innocent X's* objections were ignored) and the medieval empire's significance. The recognition of Calvinism and designation of 1624 as the cut-off date for possession of ecclesiastical lands settled the German religious dispute. Princes could, if they wished, permit both faiths to exist in their territories. The Count Palatine was restored as the eighth elector. The independence of Holland and Switzerland was confirmed and autonomy granted to the 300 German entities.

C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (1938) and Richelieu and the French Monarchy (1949); F. Watson, Wallenstein, Soldier under Saturn (1938); B. Chudoba, Spain and the Empire, 1519-1643 (1952); M. Roberts, Gustavus Adolphus: A History of Sweden, 1611-1632 (2 vols., 1958); H. Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, vol. I (1959); T.K. Rabb, The Thirty Years' War (1964); F. Dickmann, Der westfälische Friede (1965); S.H. Steinberg, The Thirty Years' War and the Conflict for European Hegemony, 1600-1660 (1966); G. Pagès, The Thirty Years War, 1618-1648 (ET 1970).