Destruction and the Thirty Years’ War: Impact and Influence on Europe in Historiography

Student Author(s)

Jonathan Tilden

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Janis Gibbs

Document Type


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The historiography of the Thirty Years’ War over the years has been a variety of perspectives. Early twentieth century historians like S.H. Steinberg claimed the long-accepted account of the war’s destruction was extraordinarily overblown. Steinberg claimed that Central Europe was not ravaged by the conflict and asserted that other factors, such as disease and famine, were the real killers in the Thirty Years’ War. Peter Wilson later asserted that, while the fighting was not the apocalyptic disaster which contemporaries had portrayed it as, the war still had enormous consequences for the populations and economies of Central Europe. The trend within the past decade has been to focus on a certain aspect of the war instead of the war as a whole. Scholars such as Hans Medick and David Lederer have examined the suffering caused by the Thirty Years’ War with a much narrower focus. Medick investigates how contemporaries remembered the war and Lederer uses rape as an example of human suffering during the conflict. This research examined the changes in the historiography of one of the most important conflicts in European history and the major arguments put forth by several key historians. Ultimately, it was Wilson’s discussion of the conflict and the breadth of his research into the demographic and economic effects of the war that proved to be the most convincing.

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