This is the second book I’ve read recently about the Thirty Years War, both of which have the same informative, if unimaginative, title of The Thirty Years War. Cicely Veronica Wedgwood’s history is considered a classic English-language history of the war, and with good reason. Also, my copy was published as part of the New York Review Book Classics line, and is a very solidly put together paperback.

I must note that for a history of a war, it is by no means a military history. Only the very most prominent of battles are given any description at all. There is a fair amount of armies marching around, and recruiting, and looting. Past that, the book is almost entirely given over to politics. Considering that the Thirty Years War was a conflict of multiple parties and agendas, and there were very few periods where there was not some serious attempt to find a peace settlement, this is a sensible way to proceed.

As a one-volume overview, it is very good, and a very good place to start (better than Gardiner’s The Thirty Years War, but mainly by dint of being at least twice as long), though it never gets very far past the flow of events. You get some sense of the major actors, like Ferdinand I, but no detailed understanding. At the same time, it does not leave me desperately wanting more detail on any particular subject.

The end of the book does not only cover the end of the war, but the peace that followed. There were a large number of mostly mercenary troops to discharge, and the process was as complicated as modern disarmament talks.

I can only assume that the scholarship is still fairly current, as I’ve heard no concerns that subject. But while this volume is mostly a work of synthesis instead of research, there is a reassessment of just how much damage the war did to Germany that it would be nice to get an update on.