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The Thirty Years War (Bedford History) Hardcover – Dec 1938


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (Dec 1938)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224006908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224006903
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.6 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,737,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Too many books on 18 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
Wedgewood's history was written in 1938, when the German states were "reunified" under under Nazi rule into the "Third Reich", so she approaches the question of the 30-year civil war of the "First Reich", or Holy Roman Empire, from this perspective. She refers to the monument still standing on the battlefield of Breitenfeld, which commemorates the struggle for "freedom of belief", as a forgotten relic of a bygone age. However, she added the footnotes and the bibliographical endnote to this edition in the 1960s, so the references were updated to that time.

It still has a well-deserved reputation of being a solid factual account of the war, which was insanely complex as well as terrifyingly violent. As with most historians of her era, she concentrates on the narrative facts: who raised an army from where, where they marched it to, who they met, the battles they fought, and the results. However, its great strength is that she adds short but pithy character sketches of the main protagonists, which are good enough to be helpful, and opinionated enough to be intriguing. This prevents the story from getting bogged down, and holds the reader's interest well. At times she also goes into details of the collapse of civil society, and the horrific human consequences of the war, but perhaps not as much as a more modern author probably would have.

As with many popular works, she has a strong set of opinions, amounting really to a bias, but as with any popular work, this also helps to keep the reader's interest, whether you agree or disagree with her. For her, the Austrian and Imperial ruling family, the Habsburgs, can almost do no wrong.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 May 2000
Format: Paperback
The nature of historical research usually means that works written over 60 years previous are often of limited value to the contemporary historian. However, the Thirty Years War has been so widely avoided by the English academic 'fraternity' that this work is still the best source of narrative upon the subject in English. That which it lacks in style it more than makes up for in sheer depth of content.
Certainly this work is dated and lacks any true historical analysis. Yet, to a certain extent, its naive style is somewhat endearing in its lack of academic trickery and hyperbole. Anyone who wants to know the 'who, what, when and where' of the Thirty Years War would be advised to read this. Anyone wanting to know why would do better with Asch or Parker, particularly as Wedgwood's inter-war tone seeps a form of hopeless pacificism into an oft bloody and complicated war. That she herself describes the event as 'meaningless' should illustrate this point. Mind you, at least she acknowledges the Imperio-centric nature of the conflict and does not slip to readily into the notion of the wars domination by external powers. That she does not see the war as run from Madrid is a miracle for an English author of this period.
My advice would be to buy this book if you are interested in the subject or if you need it for coursework. It sat on my shelf for years before I bothered to read more than a few chapters, such is its size. However, it is worth owning if only for its classical narrative style and depth. I doubt one could find a more comprehensive work - in this form - on the Thirty Years War. Just don't expect it to answer any exam questions for you!
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By another reader on 5 Dec 2006
Format: Paperback
I agree with everything the first reviewer says about this book, but, I would also add, for a history book of this size, it's extremely readable, often quite humourous (where appopriate for such a devastating conflict). Strangely, I also bought it years ago and only read it recently.

I read many large works on history and the fascinating detail afforded by modern scholarship, is often spoilt by turgid, meandering, prose.

Not so with this book. Read it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Baerends on 7 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in the late 1930s by the then very youthful Veronica Wedgood, this is probably still one of the best books to read about the 30 Years War. In my opinion, she got the balance exactly right, expanding sufficiently into all sorts of 'sidelines' (Bethlen Gabor and his invasions from Transsylvania, the Italian theater, the link with the Dutch 80 Years War) but still keeping the book well focused and compact. I very much liked her 'old-fashioned' (in the positive sense) writing style, including her moralistic (but mostly fair) judgements of the main decision makers. In line with pretty much any other book about this war, there is a bit of an imbalance in coverage between say the first 15 years (90% of the text) and the 'remaining' 15 years, but that is understandable and probably contributes to readability as the events in the final period do not lend themselves as well to a nice storyline.
Overall verdict: job very well done, highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For some mysterious reason of the dozens of historical dates I was forced to memorize in secondary school '1648 Peace of Westphalia' always stuck in my mind. Well, it's been almost 30 years since I finished secondary school now, high time to - finally! - read up on the Thirty Years' War. I felt too daunted by the sheer size of Europe's Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War so opted to start with C.V. Wedgwood's book.

From the very start I was completely gripped by the clarity with which she sets out to tell the story of this long and impossibly tangled conflict. Step by step, Wedgwood guides you from one phase of the conflict to the other and never did I feel lost amidst the dozens of principal actors and ever-shifting alliances and leagues, which is no mean feat (admittedly, this is based on the assumption that I am of average intelligence and get lost as soon as an average person; you'll just have to take my word for it I guess).

Contrary to what Anthony Grafton says in his foreword and other reviewers have commented on as well I personally felt this is not just a 'how history' but contains quite a lot of 'why history' as well. In fact, the 'why bits' are probably the main reason why I never felt lost. Throughout Wedgwood always clearly explains the motives of the actors: why the German protestant princes become wary of their 'Protestant champion' Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, or why at another point in time they (Protestant though they are) accept the help of Catholic France.
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