30 Years War Essay

Pages: 5 (2047 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 9  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion


Years war

Thirty Years War

Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) is described as a period of intense and extremely disruptive conflict in Germany and Europe. One historian states that it was "…an epoch of the most fanatical and savage conflict, a bloody time of religious war, whose flame was lit in Bohemia in 1618 to rage through Germany with devastation and fire for a quarter of a century."

Cramer ( 2007) also refers to this period as a time in which governments were "torn asunder" and that the era was a time of "shame and horror."

The intensity and the impact of this conflict can be derived from its aftermath.

The gruesome devastations of the 30 years war were followed by an uprising of mankind against cruelty and oppression. The spirit of humanity and tolerance grew stronger than at any time before. The more the churches were imbued with this new spirit the closer they came back to the very sources of Christianity"

It is clear from the above that this period of warfare was seen to be a time if intense cruelty and oppression that required a resurgence of compassion and tolerance.

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Taking into account the impact and the magnitude of this conflict it is perhaps not surprising that there is still contention and debate about its causes and origins. While on the one hand there is a strong case for religious origins of this conflict, this view is not supported by all historians - although it has in the last decade become more accepted as basic reason for the initial inception of the war.

From another perspective the causes of the conflict are seen to be essentially political in nature. This paper will attempt to provide a brief overview of these two main reasons and suggest that the causes of this devastating war were both religious and political.

2. Political and Religious Causes.

TOPIC: Essay on 30 Years War Assignment

In terms of the larger issue and conflicts, this war was about the contest for European dominance and control. This includes the Bourbon -- Habsburg rivalry, which was to lead to increased conflict between France and the Habsburg power bases. From this perspective one could expand on the causes of the conflict as essentially a matter of political contestation, rather than a religious matter.

However, as many critics and historians suggest, the origins of this conflict were extremely complex and problematic to identity categorically. The impetus towards war seems to have been more religious than political. While the Thirty Years War was fought primarily in Germany, it drew in and involved most of the countries and governments of Europe.

This factor immediately alerts one to the complexity of the possible causative features of the conflict.

As noted, many studies emphasize the complexity of the problem of assigning definitive causes to this conflict. There is also a growing consensus among scholars that there is no one single factor that can be said to have resulted in this conflict and its continuation and that the answer to the question of causation must take into account a wide range of factors and variables that impacted on historical events over a long period of time. Therefore, there is a distinction to be made between the originating causes of the conflict and the causes that resulted in the continuation and the escalation of this war.

There is also general agreement that the initiating factors of the conflict were largely religious in nature. However, once again, one must be aware of the fact that religion and politics were closely intertwined during this period of European history.

The religious dispute that began the war was essentially between the Protestants and the Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. More particularly, the conflict between the German Lutherans and the Catholics had been ended by the Peace of Augsburg (1555). This conference was an important stage of the Reformation in Germany. As Cavendish (1955) notes, "The Holy Roman Empire was being torn to pieces by the mutual antagonism, intolerance and incomprehension of Roman Catholics and Lutherans…"

This was exacerbated by various political machinations that were to become more evident after the beginning of the war.

The Augsburg Peace states that the German princes could choose the religion of their territory and that the Lutherans could retain their faith, among other agreements. However, while this agreement served to end the hostility between the two groups it did not resolve the fundamental religious differences and suspicions that that simmered beneath the surface. This religious antagonism was also exacerbated by the spread of Calvinism. There was no tolerance for any other form of Protestantism other than Lutheranism.

This was only one of the complications that were to lead to the re-emergence of religious animosities.

Concomitant with the above were the underlying political factions and the jostling for European power. "…the political splintering of Germany could not be concealed, and & #8230; the Augsburg settlement 'set the scene for three hundred years of German history in a backwater' "

There were numerous political factors that were to come to the fore and which acted in consort with the religious divisions to create the conflict. For example, Spain had an interest in the German states and France felt that its sovereignty was threatened by the Habsburg states of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. Both Sweden and Denmark were interested in control over northern German states along the Baltic Sea. As a result of these political predilections and concerns there is truth to the view that while the Thirty Years War has begun as a religious war yet to soon developed all the hallmarks of a complex power struggle.

The Peace of Augsburg soon began to disintegrate, especially when various Catholic rulers in Spain and other areas attempted to restore the influence of Catholicism. This can be seen in the Cologne War (1583?88), which was a conflict initiated when the prince and archbishop of the city converted to Calvinism. The Cologne War "…made final the split between Calvinist and Lutheran that had begun with the Dresden purge a decade before. The split was bound to happen sooner or later. "

From these religious divisions and antagonisms the conflict would grow with increasing political overtones into the long war.


As one historian states, the causes of this war can be seen to be movement from the religious antagonisms to political causes that led to the wider conflict between the states. " Historians have usually suggested that the Thirty Years' War began as a religious war, but became more secular as it progressed, and this formulation is a useful one."

What should be remembered is that; "For one thing, in early modern times religion and politics were inextricably intertwined, so that our present-day approach, which makes a clear distinction between the two, is often inappropriate…"

While it can be argued that there were religious origins to this war, one also has to take into account the fact that it is equally true that as the war progressed the political aspects became to be more predominant. However, in my opinion the religious aspects and components were elements that in essence drove this war. This view is supported by critics like David Graham who stresses the view that from the perspective of our modern secular age we tend to underestimate the power of religious sentiment in this period of history. "… in our secular age, it is quite simply very difficult to appreciate the extent and depth of religious feeling in the seventeenth century."

In the final analysis though it must be conceded that establishing clear and definitive reasons for this conflict is extremely difficult, mainly because the war was so long and extensive . "The sheer length of the struggle contributes to this impression by obscuring the connection between the initial causes, its outbreak in 1618 and the eventual outcome in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648."

All that one can say with any certainty is that this war was definitely a result of both religious and political factors.


Berger, Stefan. "The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich." The Historian 70, no. 3 (2008): 575+. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5029265192.

Bossy, John. Peace in the Post-Reformation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=107354120.

Cavendish, Richard. "The Diet of Augsburg: February 2nd, 1555." History Today, February 2005, 52. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5008752973.

Cramer, Kevin. The Thirty Years' War and German Memory in the Nineteenth Century. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=114943363.

Darby, Graham. "The 30 Years' War: Graham Darby Examines the Nature and Effects of the War That Dominated the First Half of the Seventeenth Century." History Review (2001): 3+. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000921247.

European Ideologies: A Survey of 20th Century Political Ideas. Edited by Feliks Gross. New York: Philosophical Library, 1948. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=8946552.

Horsman, Reginald. The Causes of the War of 1812. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=55079259.

Lockhart, Paul Douglas. Frederik II and the Protestant Cause: Denmark's Role in the Wars of Religion, 1559-1596. Boston: Brill, 2004.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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