Hans Ulrich Franck: Rider being attacked by two soldiers with axes, etching, 1643

The Thirty Years’ War

From Bohemian Uprising to European Conflagration


The sixteenth century saw large parts of the nobility becoming Protestant. If the Habsburgs emphasized their own Catholicism, it was thus for political as well as for religious reasons. In 1618 Protestant Bohemian nobles mounted an uprising against the uncompromising course of Habsburg rule. This uprising was the opening of a long series of wars that only came to an end with the Peace of Westphalia thirty years later. After the Protestant nobility had been defeated at the Battle of the White Mountain near Prague, all Christian confessions with the exception of Catholicism were prohibited in the Bohemian and Austrian lands. The war spread to affect large parts of Europe. Later, the various conflicts and hostilities were summarized under the blanket term of the ‘Thirty Years’ War’. During this time the lines of conflict became ever more diffuse, the levels of brutality rose, and the general populace suffered hugely. The war brought about a massive overall reduction in the population.

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