A concise history of the war that created modern Europe

The Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648 by Richard Bonney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bonney writes a concise (90-page) history of the war that focuses on the military aspects. Sometimes the narration is a bit dry and not as connected to the larger importance of the war. It also assumes more knowledge of early modern European history than the average reader might have.

He does well in showing the relationships between the many different parties in the war, showing both religious and political factors. The reader also gets a sense of the challenges of maintaining an army in the 1600s, which was extremely difficult and often done at the expense of the civilian population where the fighting occurred by getting a payment after the negotiated surrender of a town, by forcing city and rural folk to pony up when an army occupied their territory, or through pillage. As he puts it, “If for the soldier the war was, in the last analysis, his livelihood, the civilian was ultimately the paymaster” (74).

As Bonney notes, many view the end of the Thirty Years’ War is often seen as a turning point that created the modern state system in Europe where a system of competing European states replaced the ideal of European Christendom.

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