The Origins of the Thirty Years War and the Structure of European Politics

TitleThe Origins of the Thirty Years War and the Structure of European Politics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsSutherland, Nicola M.
JournalThe English Historical Review

By what criteria does conflict in Europe become European war? The problem is largely one of nomenclature, technical yet vital. The Thirty Years War is a largely factitious conception which has, nevertheless, become an indestructible myth. The myth has distorted the subject-matter, arrested historical thinking, and created otherwise avoidable problems. In attempting to trace the origins of the Thirty Years War - so called - it is mistaken to assume, because the topic is familiar, that the subject is clearly defined. One cannot determine either origins or participation without first clearing the hurdle: origins of what; participation in what? Yet the moment one starts to examine the subject, it becomes elusive. Conventionally, we are dealing with a European war during the thirty years 1618-48. But it is well known that war - or should one say the war - did not end in 1648, and less well known that it did not begin in 1618. [Revised from Article]

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