30 Years War

23 May 1618 – 15 May 1648

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Summary Part I : Bohemia and Germany

In 1618, the Austrian Habsburgs tried to impose Roman Catholicism on their Protestant subjects in Bohemia. Especially one Ferdinand II, the heir to Bohemian throne. The Bohemian Protestants immediately appealed to the Protestants in the rest of the empire while Ferdinand II called upon the German Catholics, Spain, and the papacy. (Ferdinand II was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1619.) Anyway, Ferdinand II and his allies won a battle at White Mountain (1620) outside Prague that allowed the destruction of Protestantism in most of the Habsburg lands. Encouraged by this success, Ferdinand II turned against Bohemia's Protestant supporters in Germany (1621). Despite aid from Britain, Denmark, and the Dutch Republic, the Protestants lost, and by 1629, imperial armies commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein overran most of Protestant Germany and much of Denmark. Ferdinand II then issued the Edict of Restitution, reclaiming lands in the empire belonging to the Catholic Church that had been acquired and secularized by Protestant rulers.

Summary Part II : Germany and the European Powers

Only Swedish military aid saved the Protestant cause. In 1630, an army led by King Gustavus Adolphus landed in Germany and, with a subsidy from the French government and assistance from many German and Protestant states, routed the Imperialists at Breitenfeld (1631) and drove them from much of Germany. The Protestant revival continued until a Spanish army intervened and defeated the main Swedish field army at Nordlingen (1634) and forced the Protestants out of southern Germany. This new Habsburg success, however provoked France to declare war first on Spain (1635) and then on the emperor (1636).


The war, which in the 1620s had been fought principally by German states with foreign assistance, now became a struggle among the great powers (Sweden, France, Spain, and Austria), fought largely on German soil.

Summary Part III : The Defeat of the Habsburgs

Eventually, France's victory over the Spaniards at Rocroi (1643) and Sweden's defeat of the Imperialists at Jankau (1645) forced the Habsburgs to make concessions that led to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which settled most of the outstanding issues.

Cause

Root Cause: The 30 Years War stemmed from a coincidence of tension within the Empire and a political and dynastic crisis within the Habsburg monarchy that undermined confidence in the emperor's ability to resolve long-standing constitutional problems.


Direct Cause: In 1618, the Austrian Habsburgs tried to impose Roman Catholicism on their Protestant subjects in Bohemia.

Outcome

Eventually, France's victory over the Spaniards at Rocroi (1643) and Sweden's defeat of the Imperialists at Jankau (1645) forced the Habsburgs to make concessions that led to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which settled most of the outstanding issues.


The Treaty of Westphalia ended the war. It gave the Swiss independence of Austria and the Netherlands independence of Spain. The German principalities secured their autonomy. Sweden gained territory and a payment in cash, Brandenburg and Bavaria made gains too, and France acquired most of Alsace-Lorraine.

Main Significance

The 30 Years War ended the age of religious wars in Europe, and it caused the role of religion in European politics to recede. The war also increased the autonomy of the constituent states of the Empire, limiting the power of the Emperor and decentralizing authority in German-speaking central Europe.

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