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The Thirty Years' War 1618-1648 (Essential Histories) [Paperback]

Richard Bonney
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

14 Aug 2002 Essential Histories (Book 29)
More than three and a half centuries have passed since the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War (1618-48); but this most devastating of wars in the early modern period continues to capture the imagination of readers: this book reveals why. It was one of the first wars where contemporaries stressed the importance of atrocities, the horrors of the fighting and also the sufferings of the civilian population. The Thirty Years' War remains a conflict of key importance in the history of the development of warfare and the 'military revolution'. It marked a turning point in the extent to which states would involve themselves in large-scale military conflicts for the sake of religious and constitutional issues in addition to their normal strategic concerns.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing; 1st Edition Uk Pbk edition (14 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841763780
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841763781
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 17.2 x 24.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 309,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

The Revd Professor Richard Bonney is Professor of Modern History and Head of the Department of History at the University of Leicester. His books include 'The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660' (Oxford, OUP, 1991); (ed. and contributor), 'Economic Systems and State Finance' (OUP/ESF, 1995); 'The Limits of Absolutism in ancien regime France' (Variorum, 1995); (editor and contributor), 'The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe, c. 1200-1815' (Oxford University Press, 1999); joint editor and contributor with W.M. Ormrod and M.M. Bonney, 'Crises, Revolutions and Self-Sustained Growth: Essays in European fiscal history, 1130-1830' (Shaun Tyas, Stamford, UK, 1999)

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The Peace of Augsburg signed in September 1555 affected political and religious arrangements in the Holy Roman Empire for many years and was at the heart of the issues involved in the Thirty Years' War. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitve work on the 30 Years' War 14 Dec 2004
Format:Paperback
This very well-researched book provides a perfect introduction to one of the most important areas of European history, vital to understanding the effects of the Reformation, and roots of the age of nation-states in Europe. This war, which devastated much of Northern Germany and the Czech Republic and killed between a quarter and a half of the population in some states, left Germany a backwater, whose rush to 'catch up' its position two and a half centuries later had such dire consequences. This was the first pan-European conflict, and a finer example of superpower meddling could not be found - local religious conflicts being transformed into all-out war by great powers, such as France and Sweden, invites comparison with Cold War conflicts or the current war in the Congo. The war which was fought to, and failed, settle once and for all, which religion a state's subjects should follow, succeeded in fracturing the once mighty Holy Roman Empire into over a thousand petty states and principalities.
With clear chapter headings, well-chosen illustrations and well-defined maps, Richard Bonney makes this book equally accessible to both historian and casual reader. Equal attention is devoted to the different stages of the war, and to the myriad forces involved, on both the Imperial and the Protestant sides. A well-argued chapter on the Mercenaries underlines the ambiguity of the conflict, with many of the fighters turning coat at will - parallels with the use of mercenaries in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in the wars in Italy, and the prince-threatening power of the Conottieri - such as Wallenstein - are hard to ignore.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An OK book 11 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback
I must admit that I'm not that big a fan of Osprey's military history books. I find they tend to be a hit or miss experience. The books are mostly fairly short, introductory type books and are supposed to present an overview of their topics. Sometimes, however, they get bogged down in explaining tiny pieces of near-useless information, like the many (and I do mean maaany) different types of knots used to tie down samurai armour. Probably very interesting if that's your thing, but not when you're reading a book that's meant to give you an overview of early Japanese history.
This book, though, turned out to be pretty good and it gave me a fairly clear overview of the Thirty Years War. The book obviously does not pursue any of the many themes in depth, but it does manage to present the conflict clearly and fairly succinctly. The Thirty Years War is among the most bewildering subjects to study, at least for an amateur like me, since so many sides took part with so many different agendas and such diverse cultural rationale.
I did know a bit about the Thirty Years War before I read this book and I think that may have helped a bit. As I said, the book is not an in-depth analysis and it does have a few too many loose ends to be completely satisfactory. But it helps you gain a fairly clear view of the structure of the Thirty Years War and can make it easier for you to learn more from different sources.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good try on a complex subject 19 Feb 2004
Format:Paperback
Fairly good attempt at a very bewildering subject with too many aspects for a book of the size.
Sadly one comes out of the book not much wiser then one went in...
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Summary of a Neglected Conflict 6 Sep 2002
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Now that Osprey's Essential Histories series has covered most of the low-hanging fruit - like more needless summaries of the American Civil War - it is starting to actually use this series as it should: to cover those conflicts in military history that do not receive their fair share of attention. Richard Bonney's volume on the Thirty Years War is well-written, accurate, insightful and fairly detailed for such a short volume. Readers looking for a good short history of this critical conflict in early modern European History should definitely purchase this volume.
The volume begins with a short introduction, chronology a section on the background to the war and alliances. Bonney succeeds in disputing the over-simplified view of the war as a simply religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Instead, Bonney presents a vastly more complicated milieu of contentious issues and factions, with religion being only one albeit large factor. For example, Catholic (more or less) France was more concerned with limiting the power of Austria's Catholic Hapsburg's than with the minor power plays of various German Protestant small-fry duchies. The author's discussion of the Catholic Imperialist alliance with Lutheran Saxony and the Protestant Hungarian alliance with the Ottomans provide ample evidence of the diversity of issues and tangled allegiances involved in the conflict. Although this introductory material is interesting, it does tend to sidestep around some of the religious and economic motivations that kept the war going; the author mentions the refusal of the Lutherans to work with the Calvinists against the Catholic Empire, but fails to mention why these objections were so deep-seated.
The author spends 17 pages in the section "the warring sides," discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the Holy Roman Empire (Spanish gold, lots of combat veterans and good commanders), the German Protestants (poor quality troops and leaders), the Swedes (excellent artillery, cavalry and Gustavus Adolphus), the French (who were too distracted by their war with the Spanish to make a major effort in Germany), the Dutch and the Spanish. This section is far more detailed than similar sections in other Osprey Essential History volumes. The only deficiency in this area - and it runs throughout the volume - is a failure to provide any references on 17th Century currency. Several times, the author details cash subsidies by the Dutch, Spanish, British in terms of thalers, guilders and florins. Without any kind of reference about currency, it is difficult to evaluate the relative economic contributions of the various powers.
The actual narrative of the conflict is 29 pages long - a bit short - but quite good. There are seven 2-D maps that support the text (the Rhine fortresses in southwest Germany, the first Battle of Breitenfeld, the battles of Lutzen, Nordligen, Wittstock, 2nd Breitenfeld, and Jankow). Unfortunately the greatest weaknesses in an otherwise fine volume is the lack of any strategic maps of Germany that depict pre or post-war boundaries and many of the peripheral areas. The reader will find it difficult to follow the campaign narrative in places like Swedish Pommerania, the Baltic Coast and Bavaria, which have no supporting maps.
The final sections of the volume cover a look at typical mercenaries, civilian witnesses, the war in context and the conclusion of the war. As usual, these sections are a bit weak and Osprey should re-think what it is asking authors to accomplish in these concluding sections. Nevertheless, author Richard Bonney succeeds in delivering an excellent summary of the war that shaped pre-modern central Europe.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does little to make sense of a confusing war 28 Sep 2004
By David A. Schuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I enjoy the Osprey Essential Histories and up until this one, I believe they were all well put together for the layman to understand. However, in this particular issue, the author does little to clear up background to the war as well as the major participants in the conflicts. Instead he leaves us with lists of major leaders and generals in which one would already have to have an in depth understanding of this era to recognize and understand. I have to say that this is perhaps the most confusing war I have ever read in terms of the various states and sub factions involved. I was hoping Osprey would be able to clear it up, but unfortunately it did not. Though still well written, it did little too help my understanding of this major political and religious struggle.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just scratches the surface. 27 Jun 2007
By Chip Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Simply not enough information." It is a common complaint for readers of the Essential Histories series that can certainly be blamed on the strict restrictions on space, but in this case especially, the statement is valid. This book gives you the bare-bones of the conflict, with very little in the way of causes for and the lead up to the war. Brief, but interesting, discussions of the most important battles, the effects on the local populace, and regional negotiations are included, but the overall result is simply incomplete. The Thirty Years' War is an incredibly complex conflict involving overwhelming numbers of players. Alliances shift, break, and reform; leaders and generals change allegiances, and the tides of war turn again and again. It is, therefore, unrealistic to expect a <100 page book to give you the kind of in depth understanding you would need to truly know and understand this war. That is not the reason I am giving this book only 3 stars.

Even considering the monumental task of summarizing the key points of the Thirty Years' War, Richard Bonney does a poor job. The primary complaint I have is a general lack of grounding. An area map is blatantly missing, so the reader will have an extremely hard time grasping the location and significance of many battles in the book as well as the basic borders and areas of occupation before, during, and after the war. It is frustrating to read about occurrences in cities and duchies of which you're not sure where they are. Without additional research to get a firm understanding of the layout of the region, much of this book will be ineffective and uninteresting. Additionally, tables summarizing the various currencies used by the key players and their respective values at the time would be an immense help, as Bonney discusses wages and contributions frequently without much grounding. Finally, a table or list of the various barons, princes, kings, emperors, cardinals, generals, and so on and who they work for would be very helpful. With only a couple of pages dedicated to quick-reference guides about some of the basic background information, this book would be much more effective.

A fun and interesting alternative history series set in Germany during the Thirty Years' War is the Assisti Shards series, starting with 1632 (don't let the silly-looking cover scare you away).

So while this book is well-written, contains some good art, gives some good history, and any 97 page book would be inadequate to describe this conflict, it still falls short of the mark set by other Essential History authors.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive intoduction to the Thirty Years War 14 Dec 2004
By Thomas Lloyd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sadly, the Thirty Years' War is almost unknown in the English-speaking world, and most of the literature is in German, Czech, Danish, or Swedish. This is a pity, as the war involved, and had a lasting effect on, much of Europe, and has parallels in several modern-day conflicts.

This very well-researched book provides a perfect introduction to one of the most important areas of European history, vital to understanding the effects of the Reformation, and roots of the age of nation-states in Europe. This war, which devastated much of Northern Germany and the Czech Republic and killed between a quarter and a half of the population in some states, left Germany a backwater, whose rush to 'catch up' its position two and a half centuries later had such dire consequences. This was the first pan-European conflict, and a finer example of superpower meddling could not be found - local religious conflicts being transformed into all-out war by great powers, such as France and Sweden, invites comparison with Cold War conflicts or the current war in the Congo. The war which was fought to, and failed, settle once and for all, which religion a state's subjects should follow, succeeded in fracturing the once mighty Holy Roman Empire into over a thousand petty states and principalities.

With clear chapter headings, well-chosen illustrations and well-defined maps, Richard Bonney makes this book equally accessible to both historian and casual reader. Equal attention is devoted to the different stages of the war, and to the myriad forces involved, on both the Imperial and the Protestant sides. A well-argued chapter on the Mercenaries underlines the ambiguity of the conflict, with many of the fighters turning coat at will - parallels with the use of mercenaries in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in the wars in Italy, and the prince-threatening power of the Conottieri - such as Wallenstein - are hard to ignore. The chapter on witness accounts gives a stark reminder of the gruesome effect the war had on the peasantry, who faced starvation, brutality and rape at the hands of the armies, and would sometimes murder isolated groups of soldiers, supporting neither side in particular. Attention is paid to the diplomatic side - the machinations of both Catholic France and protestant Denmark and Sweden against each other, as much as against the Empire - the Imperial commanders Tilly and Wallenstein, driven as much by political ambition and greed, as much as Catholic piety. The small details are priceless - that the 2 victims of the Defenestration of Prague, which provoked the war, survived their ejection from the Castle window was not due to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, but the presence of a dung heap to cushion their fall.

Outstanding book, one of the best in the series. I recommend this, not only to military history buffs, but to anyone taking a degree in German or Scandinavian studies. After reading this, try excerpts from Schiller's history.
4.0 out of 5 stars At last! 4 Dec 2013
By Phil Historian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Finally this huge war has been given some coverage! keep it up Osprey! the huge war in Germany and other parts of Europe between Catholics and Protestants which eventually became a power struggle between several strong European powers. this is only around 90 pages but good ones for all the money I spent on it!
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