[In Our Time] The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War

06/12/2018 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=59843705
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p06ttmlf.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the war in Europe which begain in 1618 and continued on such a scale and with such devastation that its like was not seen for another three hundred years. It pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Calvinists and Catholics against Catholics across the Holy Roman Empire, drawing in their neighbours and it lasted for thirty gruelling years, from the Defenestration of Prague to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Many more civilians died than soldiers, and famine was so great that even cannibalism was excused. This topic was chosen from several hundred suggested by listeners this autumn.

The image above is a detail from a painting of The Battle of White Mountain on 7-8 November 1620, by Pieter Snayers (1592-1667)


Peter Wilson
Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford

Ulinka Rublack
Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College


Toby Osborne
Associate Professor in History at Durham University

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen Date: 2019-02-11


  • Again, a topic that the podcast medium wasn’t very suited to
  • The new learning was the perspective that the 30 Year War was less about religion and more about different regions of the Holy Roman Empire jockeying for power; especially Bavaria
  • Also a new learning for me: that Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden died two years into entering the war – I had always thought of him as a long lived elder statesman
  • And the little tidbit about the guy responding to the woman who turned cannibal because of starvation: “Well, don’t punish her too hard”


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