Blair Worden

Of Margraves and Massacres

Europe’s Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 992pp £35 order from our bookshop

When Albert Speer broadcast to the German nation in May 1945 to explain the decision of Admiral Dönitz, Hitler’s successor, to surrender, he declared that the destruction visited on Germany by the war ‘can only be compared to that of the Thirty Years War. The decimation of our people through hunger and deprivation must not be allowed to reach the proportion of that epoch.’ The German civil war of 1618–48, fought between Catholics and Protestants, and between the Habsburg emperors and mutinous princes below them, has been one of that nation’s innermost memories, even if the longevity of the European peace since 1945 has removed some of its potency. The pain of recollection was deepened in the nineteenth century, first through the influence of Schiller and other Romantics, who had dwelled on the suffering and destruction, and then by the movement for German unification, which blamed the war on the jumbled and archaic machinery of Habsburg rule. 

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