The Thirty Years War

The Strangest Holy War

By Dillan Badilla, John Dechert, and Michael Hammond

Years: 1616-1648

The Summary of The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years war was, indeed, one of the strangest Holy Wars, if not the strangest war, that Europe had, or has since, ever seen. Firstly, it was part civil war between the Protestant princes, the Protestant Union, and the Catholic princes, the Catholic League, in the Holy Roman Empire. Also, it was a the upbringing of long festering tensions between Protestants and Catholics, more so in Bohemia than in other parts of Germany or Europe. Finally, it was also a dynastic power struggle and political power struggle between the Swedish/French coalition and the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburgs.



It took place between the years of 1616-1648, primarily in western and northern Germany. However it also took place in parts of eastern Germany and the modern day Czech Republic. The reason why we remember the Thirty Years war as important is that it, much like Machiavelli, emancipated the old ideas of religion and war being inseparable. Thus, it laid the foundation for the great dynastic wars of the latter part of the 17th century. The Thirty Years War has also been immortalized to us for it is the first war that was fought almost exclusively with muskets. Indeed, it laid the foundation for the military doctrine that was to prevail until the rise of Napoleon

The Causes

Direct Cause: The installment of catholic King Ferdinand II as the king of Bohemia, sparked off years of resentment in Bohemia.


Root Cause: Tensions between the French/Swedish coalition and the Austrian and Spanish Hapsburgs. There was also tension between the Protestant and Catholic princes within the Holy Roman Empire.

Key Figures

Catholic League: A league of Catholic states throughout the Holy Roman Empire; established in 1607. It was prevalent in the Early battles of the Thirty Years.


Protestant Union: A league of Protestant states in the Holy Roman Empire, also known as the Evangelical League of the Union of Auhausen; formed in 1608 in response to the Catholic League.


Albrecht Von Wallenstein: 1583-1634, Wallenstein was the Duke of Friesland and was appointed governor of Bohemia by Ferdinand II right after the events in Bohemia. However, in 1625, Von Wallenstein conscripted an army in Bohemia to fight the invading Danish and Protestant threat. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in 1634 for his political aspirations.


Gustavus Adolphus: 1594-1632, Gustavus Adolphus, the king of Sweden, also known as the "Protestant Alexander",was hailed, and is still hailed, for his military genius and his deployment of cavalry, infantry, and artillery. Thus, it is thanks to Adolphus for the modern military doctrine that we have toaday. However, to the dismay of the swedish cause, he died at the battle of Lutzen in 1632.


Lennart Tortensson: 1603-1651, Tortensson was one of the greatest pioneers of the new method of conscription, and one of the finest and ablest commanders of the Swedish armies after the death of Adolphus. However, he was incredibly severe and cruel to his men, and thus, they heartily loathed him.


Christian IV: 1577-1648, Christian IV, the longest reigning Danish king in the history of Denmark, led said country in the intervention on behlf of the beleaguered German Protestants, and Protestant Union, in 1625. However, he and his army were pushed back in 1626 after their defeat at the Battle of Dessau.


Cardinal Richelieu: 1585-1642, Although the great Cardinal Richelieu was a man of the clergy, he was also very much involved in the politics of France. Therefore, when he saw that the Hapsburgs, who France had long distrusted, were getting "too big for their britches" in 1634, he urged the king of France, Louis XIII, into going to war; which Louis promptly did in 1635.


The Protestant Alexander (Gustaus Adolphus)

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Cardinal Richelieu

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Outcomes: The Peace Of Westphalia

1. The Peace of Westphalia lead to smaller newer countries gaining more power and strength over the older powerhouses such as, Spain, Austria, and The Holy Roman Empire. Furthermore, the Peace of Westphalia was made of two separate treaties

  • This lead the the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire because it stripped most of its power and gave it to lesser countries like Prussia.


2. The Treaty of Münster was a treaty between the Dutch and Spain releasing the Netherlands from the Spanish Crown. Signed in 1648


  • However, the Treaty of Osanbruck was a treaty within the Holy Roman Empire itself and the nation of Sweden. In this treaty the principle of Cuius regio, eius religio, he who rules, his religion, was reaffirmed, and more autonomy was given to the Holy Roman states. Signed in 1648


Main Significance

Some major impacts on this war was the destruction it caused. Some areas in Germany lost up to 50% of its population, disease being one of the larger suspects. Another impact would be how Europe's power structure got all flipped, The Holy Roman Empire, lost most of its power, this eventually lead to its downfall in the 1800's with the help of Napoleon. Spain also lost a lot of political and military power.