However, that would be an unfair criticism of Peter Wilson's history of the Thirty Years War 'Europe's Tragedy'. The scope of this conflict was as vast as it was complex. It was one of the longest and most devastating conflicts in European history, during which nearly a quarter of all Germans were killed. It also drew in huge numbers of soldiers from outside Germany, including far more British subjects than I had thought.
Unlike many such studies, the author sets out the context in some detail (261 pages). The religious issues following the Reformation and the institution that was the Holy Roman Empire. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the Turkish Wars and the Uskok War of 1615-17.
The conflict is traditionally broken down into five phases, starting with the Bohemian Revolt of 1618 and ending with the French military intervention. In this more detailed study, the phases are broken down into shorter periods, covering the diplomatic and military stages. Conflicts on the fringes of the war are not omitted because they had a direct impact on the ability of the states to intervene in Germany. There are a reasonable number of illustrations and every significant battle has its own map - something that is often overlooked. It is worth buying the book format for this alone, as the Kindle rarely does maps well.
Finally, the author looks at the aftermath of the war, including the immense human and material cost. The sub-chapters on the military are particularly good and challenges some of my perceptions at least.
This is not a book to be started lightly. It is long (850 pages) and has been my study chair reading for a couple of months. However, despite the detail it is well written and has an engaging narrative.
For wargamers, I would also recommend the Pike & Shotte supplement 'The Devils Playground' from Warlord, even if you don't play those rules. It is also a conflict well suited for Pikeman's Lament, given the endless skirmishing and small battles. The 1971 film 'The Last Valley' is a must watch for this sort of action.
|Typical foot regiment of the conflict
|And something a bit more exotic - Cossacks