Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War, from 1618 to 1648, was one of the most destructive conflicts in world history, occupying much of Europe and laying waste to entire regions of the continent. What began as a series of religious skirmishes between Catholics and Protestants in Germany soon engulfed most of the major European powers, bankrupting many of them.
The Causes of the Thirty Years War were the following:
- Religious conflict within the Holy Roman Empire was simmering under the surface by 1600, with further agitation caused by the rise of Calvinism.
- Dynastic conflict between the Hapsburgs (who ruled Spain and the Holy Roman Empire) and the Bourbons (who ruled France) broke out when France attempted to gain control over several of the smaller German states.
- Fighting broke out in the Protestant Netherlands against their Catholic Spanish overlords.
Cause of the Thirty Years' War
By 1630, Sweden intervened in the conflict, led by Gustavus Adolphus. Soon German Catholics were overwhelmed. Sweden was, ironically, supported by Catholic France, as Cardinal Richelieu saw the alliance as weakening the Hapsburgs. Fighting finally ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Perhaps the more important aspects of the Thirty Years' War were the devastation caused to the European countryside. Entire towns were depopulated and the spread of disease wiped out entire districts. It was, however, the last religious war fought in Europe.