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Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War Hardcover – 30 Jul 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (30 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713995920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713995923
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 6.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 450,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Succeeds brilliantly ... His scholarship is remarkable, his prose light and lovely, his judgements fair (Paul Kennedy Sunday Times)

An ambitious and accomplished account, abreast of modern scholarship, has been overdue, and EUROPE'S TRAGEDY supplies it all admirably (Blair Worden Literary Review)

Magisterial ... a wise, wide-seeking account, tenaciously researched (Lauro Martines The Times Literary Supplement)

A history of prodicious erudition ... a definitive account has been needed, and now Peter Wilson has provided it (Jeffrey Collins Wall Street Journal)

A wonderfully comprehensive and detailed account (Tim Blanning Sunday Telegraph)

From the Publisher

Review from Paul Kennedy, Sunday Times:

`Peter Wilson is a brave man to undertake a new general survey of one of the most long-lasting, multi-dimensional and controversial wars of all time. It is a joy to report that, at least in this reviewer's opinion, Europe's Tragedy succeeds brilliantly ... His scholarship seems to me remarkable, his prose light and lovely, his judgments fair'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I saw this book for sale I was afraid that it would be another REALLY long, dry history book written by somebody who doesn't know how to cut things out. Fortunately I was wrong. This book is pretty much the definitive history of the Thirty Years War. At 851 pages of text it is certainly a long book, but given the complexity of the source material I don't see how it could be otherwise. It has to make up for years with little printed research (At least in English) as well as include all the recent papers printed in other languages. As he points out in the introduction, any comprehensive book on the Thirty Years War requires knowledge of at least 14 different languages. For some reason the English speaking countries don't have much interest in the Thirty Years War. There is a very short list of books that cover it.

A lot has changed since the greatest previous book on the war came out in 1938. There has been a copious amount of new research that just wasn't available then. Also, having been written after World War I the perspective is rather different. In some ways that helped of course, since both wars were so tragically pointless. This book is rather different from that one. While Wedgwood's book relied almost entirely on the chroniclers of the time, this book includes a better look at the war's causes. In fact, the war itself doesn't start until page 269. Wedgwood's book kind of reminded me of Gibbons, at least in the way she arranges her information quite clearly to add force to her thesis. Basically her thesis is that the war was a stupid waste that was caused by stupidity and greed for power. Even though I think her thesis works better that Gibbons', it still left a lot out that wasn't essential to her main point.
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Format: Paperback
This book has occupied my free time for 6 weeks, solid. It is extremely dense, beautifully written, and succeeds in tying together the various strands of a war tragedy more complex than any save perhaps the fall of Rome or the world wars of the 20C. The 30 years war is one of those watersheds, when an old order gives way to new directions that take centuries to work themselves out. Wilson's brilliant synthesis is exactly what I had hoped to find.

The roots of the conflict, in my reading, sprung from 2 essential sources: 1) the decline of the feudal order in Central Europe that had operated under the umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire and 2) the simmering religious wars of protestant and catholic. These unfolded symbiotically, but it was really the conflict of the princes and kings - attempting to consolidate their own forms of power in the emerging nation state - that employed the confessional question to their own ends, however sincere they were in their beliefs.

The Habsburgs (in both Spain and central Europe) were essentially feudal lords. One of their most important powers was the ability to confer nobility and authority on allies that would then be sworn to serve them in certain capacities, such as warfare against external enemies such as the Turks or rival Christian kingdoms. They answered to a plethora of institutions that carried their own rights and privileges, the complexity of which is nothing short of extraordinary (i.e. regions, nations, free cities, duchies, each with their own historical perquisites in the hierarchy). Often, the emperors served as arbiters to resolve conflicts between their princes and lords, but they also oversaw the installation of certain administrators and other officials to support the superstructure and finances of the Empire.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the other reviews before purchasing this book and noted the positive comments and the reservations. I cannot fault any of the comments readers submitted but would like to add a different emphasis - this was an exhausting read! The standard of research and scholarship is, as recognised by others, outstanding but I was overwhelmed by the, to me, bewildering amount of facts that included a cast of thousands,(seemingly), a geographical sweep that required the permanent presence of an atlas, factional alliances who's influence became submerged in my understanding by their sheer ubiqity and a detailed chronology that required constant checks to previous events to enable me to keep a faint grasp of context.
Don't be too put off by my exhaustion - but be prepared!
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Format: Hardcover
By the time the reader has got to the end of this book there is no excuse for not having a good working knowledge of the Thirty Years War. It follows the movement of all the armies throughout the period as well as sieges, battles , diplomatic moves and the precarious finances off the participants. There are 25 battlefeild maps which I found; unlike some of the other reviewers; very useful but you have to view them within a fremework of a larger atlas or Google Earth. With so much information the book would be an impossibility were it not so well writen and presented, nice easy sub chapters alows the reader to break off and easily regain the thread. I had previosly enjoyed Veronica Weedgwood's book on the subject and the two are complementary as Peter Wilson covers two to three times the material and is a good follow on.

It is maybe difficult to seek out any section that could be eliminated though some of the conclusions might have been condenced to make way for a few lines each on the current day condition of the battlefeilds and also an appendix giving a short biography of the main charachters.
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