The Thirty Years War

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He instils in his soldiers sufficient discipline for them to be able to respond to flexible tactics on the battlefield.

For the same purpose he makes his infantrymen's pikes less unwieldy, shortening them from 16 to 11 feet. He lightens the weight of armour, wearing himself only a leather jacket in battle. And he reduces the number of men in each company in battle formation.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Thirty Years' War, , by Samuel Rawson Gardiner.

Together with these measures of increased human mobility go similar improvements in artillery. Gustavus's ordnance factories produce a cast-iron cannon less than half the weight of any other in the field, but still capable of firing a four-pound shot.


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Moreover a form of cartridge holding a prepared charge of powder means that the cannon can be reloaded faster even than the muskets of the day. This field artillery is mounted on carriages which can be pulled by two horses or even, when required, by a platoon of men. When Gustavus's army is first seen in action in Germany, at Breitenfeld in , the opposing Catholic army under Tilly is deployed in the cumbersome Spanish squares which have been the military convention for a century and more. The Swedes begin the encounter with an artillery barrage from about cannon which they have been able to bring to the field of battle.

Thereafter the rout of the Catholics is completed in a series of unwelcome surprises - musketeers appear among lines of infantrymen instead of on the flanks, cavalry charges suddenly materialize from unexpected quarters.

The Bohemian revolt

The battle sets a new order of military priority. Fire power and mobility are now the trump cards on the battlefield. The Swedish victory at Breitenfeld causes many of the German Protestant princes to declare their support for Gustavus, who presses his campaign further south into Catholic Germany. In May he takes Munich. In the same month his ally the Protestant elector of Saxony enters Prague. Confronted by these threats, the emperor Ferdinand II has already reappointed Wallenstein to his post as commander of the imperial army.

Wallenstein 's subtle strategies manoeuvre Gustavus out of his newly won territories in the south without risking a pitched battle. Swedish armies continue to campaign in Germany. But the death of the king ends the heady period when there has been a serious possibility of Protestant Sweden playing a major role in German affairs. Meanwhile the irrepressible Wallenstein is once again building himself an empire, with the help of an army which owes allegiance more to him than to the real emperor.

By Ferdinand II is so exasperated that he authorizes the assassination by an English captain, Walter Devereux of his brilliant but over-ambitious commander.

Exhaustion among the German princes now at last makes a compromise possible. The conflict which flared up in Prague in is resolved, at least in local terms, by a peace agreed in Prague in It is the emperor who makes the major concession. Instead of the ownership of church lands being restored to the situation that prevailed in , as demanded by Ferdinand's Edict of Restitution , the date of the agreed status quo is now to be the very recent one of - reflecting the period immediately before the issue of the edict in In , in the peace of Westphalia, there is a final minor change - the relevant year becomes If the war had only involved the German states, the agreement at Prague might well have ended it.

But it has had from the start a broader theme, with the Spanish Habsburgs giving active support to the emperor, their Austrian cousin. From Spain has also renewed her war against the United Provinces of the Netherlands. And the Swedes, at war with the emperor and the Catholic League, are not party to the peace of Prague.

Thirty Years’ War

Most significant of all, the improvement in Habsburg fortunes alarms the dynasty's greatest enemy, France. During the months before the peace of Prague, Cardinal Richelieu forms alliances with the United Provinces and Sweden. And he declares war on Spain and the Austrian empire. Final years and the peace of Westphalia: The active intervention of France, as the ally of Sweden and the United Provinces against imperial Austria and Spain, ensures that warfare rumbles on for several more years after the peace of Prague in But it does so in a somewhat haphazard manner, with numerous local encounters across Europe from the Netherlands to Bohemia and with no clear outcome.

There are certain significant turning points. In Portugal seizes the opportunity to reassert its independence, thus diverting Spain from her efforts to recover the United Provinces. A new northern war adds urgency from , when the Swedes attack Denmark.

Richelieu’s Vision

By all sides are eager for a settlement. Eventually there are such delegates all but forty of them German , representing the various interested parties. Their deliberations, spread over five years, are complicated by the fact that warfare is continuing - so the situation over which they are bargaining is in a state of constant flux. Apart from that unusual element, this is the first example of a modern peace conference.

By major decisions have been agreed, involving both redistribution of territory and the acknowledgement of newly independent states. In territorial terms the main winners from the peace of Westphalia are Sweden gaining valuable Baltic territory, much of it from Denmark and France receiving from the Habsburg empire various rights in Lorraine and Alsace.

The Rhine Palatinate is restored to the heir of Frederick V. Outside Germany the independence of the United Provinces is at last accepted by Spain, and that of the Swiss Confederation is now formally acknowledged having been recognized in effect since the peace of Basel in The most significant concessions are those over which the series of wars has primarily been fought. Peter Wilson offers the first new history in a generation of a horrifying conflict that transformed the map of the modern world.

Bohemia was ravaged by mercenary troops in the first battle of a conflagration that would engulf Europe from Spain to Sweden. The sweeping narrative encompasses dramatic events and unforgettable individuals—the sack of Magdeburg; the Dutch revolt; the Swedish militant king Gustavus Adolphus; the imperial generals, opportunistic Wallenstein and pious Tilly; and crafty diplomat Cardinal Richelieu. In a major reassessment, Wilson argues that religion was not the catalyst, but one element in a lethal stew of political, social, and dynastic forces that fed the conflict. The armies of both sides plundered as they marched, leaving cities, towns, villages, and farms ravaged.

When the contending powers finally met in the German province of Westphalia to end the bloodshed, the balance of power in Europe had been radically changed. Spain had lost not only the Netherlands but its dominant position in western Europe. France was now the chief Western power. Sweden had control of the Baltic.

The United Netherlands was recognized as an independent republic. The member states of the Holy Roman Empire were granted full sovereignty. The ancient notion of a Roman Catholic empire of Europe, headed spiritually by a pope and temporally by an emperor, was permanently abandoned, and the essential structure of modern Europe as a community of sovereign states was established.

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