Reading History: The Thirty Years' War

Geoffrey Parker examines the historiography of the Thirty Years' War.

It is often claimed that Samuel Pufendorf, the eminent seventeenth-century jurist and historian, first coined the phrase 'The Thirty Years' War' to describe the series of conflicts which ravaged Europe between 1618 and 1648. That phrase certainly appears in his book, On the State of the German Empire , first published in 1667; but by then it was hardly new. Already in 1649 the English weekly newspaper, The Modern Intelligencer , began to publish a series of articles entitled 'An epitome of the late Thirty Years' War in Germany'. Issue 203, dated February 8th, 1649, gave an 'epitome' of the 'Bohemian war', 1618-23; issue 204, dated February 15th, followed with the Dutch phase of the war; issue 205 covered the 'Danish phase' and so on. Within three months of the signature of the Peace of Westphalia, which brought the war to an end in October 1648, English readers were provided with a framework for interpreting the war which was recognizably modern.

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