For God or The Devil

A History of The Thirty Years War

Four hundred years ago, rebellious Bohemian noblemen threw the representatives of the powerful Habsburg family out of the windows of Prague Castle. What began as an problem for the Holy Roman Emperor to solve soon escaped its Pandora's Box, as the powers of Spain, Denmark, Sweden, the Dutch, France, Poland, Russia and countless German princes became involved. Religious tensions, simmering since 1555, exploded out into the open, and people were forced to pick a side. Following intervention from several foreign powers, the conflict became less about the pursuit of religion, and more about the pursuit of power and influence. The Thirty Years War took on a life and terror of its own, as the rivalry between the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties, the Eighty Years War between the Dutch and Spanish, the struggle for supremacy in Northern Europe and Scandinavia, and the ambitions of the Emperor all contributed to intensify and prolong the conflict.

Four hundred years ago, rebellious Bohemian noblemen threw the representatives of the powerful Habsburg family out of the windows of Prague Castle. What began as an problem for the Holy Roman Emperor to solve soon escaped its Pandora's Box, as the powers of Spain, Denmark, Sweden, the Dutch, France, Poland, Russia and countless German princes became involved. Religious tensions, simmering since 1555, exploded out into the open, and people were forced to pick a side. Following intervention from several foreign powers, the conflict became less about the pursuit of religion, and more about the pursuit of power and influence. The Thirty Years War took on a life and terror of its own, as the rivalry between the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties, the Eighty Years War between the Dutch and Spanish, the struggle for supremacy in Northern Europe and Scandinavia, and the ambitions of the Emperor all contributed to intensify and prolong the conflict. 

 

Over its span of three decades, it inflicted untold misery on the inhabitants of Europe, killed millions, ruined agriculture, destroyed infrastructure, drove millions more out of their homes and into the aching countryside. The fortunes of each power waxed and waned, as their resources grew or contracted, great battles were won and lost, incredible figures made their mark on history, and several watershed moments passed the world by. The Thirty Years War was one of the most destructive and devastating conflicts in history, superseded only by the total wars of the 20th century. Caught between the different potentates, the people of Europe were forced to choose: would they fight or do their best to escape the war's ravages; would they support their lord or rally against him; would they be for God or the Devil?