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The Thirty Years War [Paperback]

By C. V. Wedgwood & Anthony Grafton (Foreward By)
Our Price $ 16.96  
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Item Number 426326  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   520
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.92" Width: 5.06" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 30, 2005
Publisher   NYRB Classics
ISBN  1590171462  
EAN  9781590171462  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Europe in 1618 was riven between Protestants and Catholics, Bourbon and Hapsburg--as well as empires, kingdoms, and countless principalities. After angry Protestants tossed three representatives of the Holy Roman Empire out the window of the royal castle in Prague, world war spread from Bohemia with relentless abandon, drawing powers from Spain to Sweden into a nightmarish world of famine, disease, and seemingly unstoppable destruction.

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More About C. V. Wedgwood & Anthony Grafton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Cicely Veronica Wedgwood (1910-1997) was born into an innovative and intellectual English family. Her father, a direct descendant of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, was the chief general manager of the London and North Eastern Railway and her mother was a novelist and travel writer. After success at Oxford, Wedgwood rejected an academic career and took up writing instead. She published her first history, The Thirty Years War (1938), before her thirtieth birthday, and in the years that followed wrote a succession of chronicles of seventeenth-century Europe that made her one of the most popular and best-known historians in Britain. Her most important works include The King's Peace; The King's War; and William the Silent: William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 1944. She was a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies, a Dame of the British Empire, and in 1969 became the third woman to be appointed a member of the British Order of Merit.
Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University. His most recent book is The Culture of Correction in Renaissance Europe.

C. V. Wedgwood was born in 1910 and died in 1997.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > General   [5033  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Western   [379  similar products]
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4Books > Subjects > History > World > 17th Century   [98  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Very good, despite its biases.  Nov 18, 2008
Wedgewood's history was written in 1938, when the German states were "reunified" under under Nazi rule into the "Third Reich", so she approaches the question of the 30-year civil war of the "First Reich", or Holy Roman Empire, from this perspective. She refers to the monument still standing on the battlefield of Breitenfeld, which commemorates the struggle for "freedom of belief", as a forgotten relic of a bygone age. However, she added the footnotes and the bibliographical endnote to this edition in the 1960s, so the references were updated to that time.

It still has a well-deserved reputation of being a solid factual account of the war, which was insanely complex as well as terrifyingly violent. As with most historians of her era, she concentrates on the narrative facts: who raised an army from where, where they marched it to, who they met, the battles they fought, and the results. However, its great strength is that she adds short but pithy character sketches of the main protagonists, which are good enough to be helpful, and opinionated enough to be intriguing. This prevents the story from getting bogged down, and holds the reader's interest well. At times she also goes into details of the collapse of civil society, and the horrific human consequences of the war, but perhaps not as much as a more modern author probably would have.

As with many popular works, she has a strong set of opinions, amounting really to a bias, but as with any popular work, this also helps to keep the reader's interest, whether you agree or disagree with her. For her, the Austrian and Imperial ruling family, the Habsburgs, can almost do no wrong. When Ferdinand II or Ferdinand III demand new rights and powers as the emperors of the the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, she describes them as taking the normal sorts of steps that political leaders did at the time, who were always seeking to enhance their own grandeur. Of course, she has a point, that we cannot so easily judge an historical political figure by the standards of our own day. Nevertheless, when anyone opposed to the Habsburgs resists, she describes them as rashly putting the unity of the German nation at risk. When anyone other than the Habsburgs seeks to enhance their own power within the empire, they are, for her, recklessly endangering the nation to further their personal ambition. Characters like Maximilian of Bavaria and Wallenstein, are, for her, acting wisely in the empire's best interests while they are fighting for the Habsburgs, but when they deviate from their alliance, they are succumbing to personal ambition and endangering the prospects of peace and Geman unity. After each great defeat for the Protestant cause, she describes their despair with gusto, and describes the elation of the Habsburgs and the Catholics with glee. When crucial battles go the other way, she often tends to mitigate the consequences.

Her spin on the events does not detract however from one's enjoyment, and it is the first account of the war I have read that lays out the sequence of events with such clarity and detail. In fact, her account is factual and detailed enough for a fair observer to be able to conclude at the end, despite all her spin, that the war was started primarily by the Austrian Habsburgs' determination to enhance their power by bluster, legal pressure, and if that failed, by sheer armed violence. The Austrian Habsburgs stood firmly in the way of any peace agreement, and succeeded at different times in alienating all their supporters, including their relatives in Spain, and even the Pope. The war only finally ended when the supply of funds from the Habsburgs' Spanish colonies dried up, and the Habsburg crown was bankrupt. Even so, her criticism of the unreasonableness of the Swedes, the other German princes, the Dutch, the French, and the free German cities, is not always misplaced.

As the book goes on, she gives brief descriptions of the famines, the plagues, the massacres, and the other terrifying consequences, showing the kind of pacifist sadness of the pity of war common to her era. The consequences of the Thirty Years War were so horrific that they need little embellishment to cause shock, and it almost staggers belief that a whole population of such a size could be brought to such a level of desperation and suffering. Alhtough she could have given more detail here, this kind of digression into social history was not conventional for a historian of her era, and there are many other books which cover that.

I'd found Schiller's history of the war hard to follow, and Wedgewood filled the gap quite nicely. One of the best parts of the book is the first few chapters, where she gives a lively description of the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, and a description of the constitutions of the different states, the nature of the differing religious sects, and the personalities of the main protagonists. This is essential for understanding what comes next and why people acted as they did. Without this description, the entire story is hard to follow. The book is worth getting for this section alone, but the rest is also good.
Detailed and thorough  Oct 10, 2008
A dense detailed account of the pan-European war that decimated Germany in the early 1600's. The war, ostensibly about religion, but, as usual, really just about aristocratic power conflicts, especially between the Hapsburgs and the Boubons. The war redrew borders and cemented Europe politics until WW1. Written in the 1930's by a woman historian, it is a difficult read with 500 pages of endless political intrigue. I enjoyed it, but it's only for those seriously interested.
Wedgwood's "Thirty Years War" is the Best History Available  Jul 31, 2008
The best enlightening history in English of this period remains C.V. Wedgwood's "The Thirty Years War", originally published in 1938 and now available in the NYRB paperback (2005, 536 pages, 1590171462) or a Book Club hardcover (1995, no isbn, but can be found used under the above isbn at or other older editions. Wedgwood's narrative breaths life into the crosscurrents of religion, politics, economics, military operations, and leading personalities. Her solid analysis of the underlying situation, the trends and the final results brings the whole picture into focus while supplying fascinating details. As a comparison, if you have read any history by Barbara Tuchman, Wedgwood's style is similar and just as engaging, suitable to take in the full flavor of this pivitol half century, and not just a dry compilation of facts and figures. Includes maps, footnotes, bibliography, and genealogical table. As previous rewiewers have written, clearly a dazzling and sophisticated history, with lessons still so relevant today.
A little too detailed  Mar 27, 2008
While the data is accurate, I didn't find this an engrossing read, too much emphasis on details on less on the whole. But many history books make this mistake.
One of the great books of the 20th century  Jun 26, 2007
I have had this book high on my reading list for over 40 years now, ever since a took a course in German Baroque literature as an undergraduate. It is far better than I had imagined, both in style and content. My only regret is that I didn't get around to reading it 40 years ago.

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