on 14 December 2004
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.
on 11 November 2008
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.
on 16 December 2014
The book, in the kindle edition, is ridiculously cheap. But beware, all the illustrations, escept some maps, have been deleted. I suppose the text is complete, and very interesting and original it is. But the book is not complete.
Of course i can recommend it. The plans of the battles are fine, but the emphasis is not in the detailed battles but the political and cultural aspects and the organization of the mercenary armies of the times. The horrors of the war are not played down, but i believe the total disaster the war represented for germany and the terrible demographic losses shoul have received more emphatic treatment.
Well, one euro well spent, even if i believed I would receive the illustrations too