Help me learn about the 30 Years War
June 30, 2012 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Can you suggest some good books about the Thirty Years' War? I'm interested in reading some good history books about the wars and historical fiction set during the period. I know almost nothing about this period of European history, but am fascinated by the little I've heard.

Please no works of historiography, as I don't know enough about the actual events or how they have traditionally portrayed to gain much from a work of that sort.
posted by Area Man to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Simplicius Simplicissimus is the classic piece of German literature about the Thirty Years' War, and it's also an interesting primary source since its author, Grimmelshausen, was himself kidnapped into the war by Hessian soldiers at the age of ten and the work is semi-autobiographical.

Here's a 1912 translation that's in the public domain.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:24 PM on June 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The religious and political contexts of the Thirty Years' War are pretty difficult to absorb from scratch. G. A. Henty wrote two didactic young adult novels about it that are readable: The Lion of the North (1886) and Won by the Sword (1900). They don't avoid the problem of listing off tons of people and places and issues of relevance, and obviously they're not scholarly work, but they're something to hang on to as you acquire more details and familiarity. The classic brief history is Wedgwood's The Thirty Years War. Wilson's The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy is very recent and excellent but punishingly long and complex (I stopped around 1/3 of the way through it, before it really even gets started, and keep meaning to go back ...).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2012

The one I keep close at hand is C. V. Wedgwood's The Thirty Years' War (1938); it obviously doesn't incorporate the latest research, but it's wonderfully written and will give you a good basis for exploring further.
posted by languagehat at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Surely Brecht's Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and her Children) is the first fictional work to spring to mind when the Thirty Years' War is mentioned?
posted by lysimache at 4:40 PM on June 30, 2012

Wedgwood is the go-to for the Thirty Years War.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:23 PM on June 30, 2012

The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy is great, recent but as Monsieur Caution says, it is long and not always easy to get through. I read it last year and at the end I did have a much better understanding of what the War was about.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:35 AM on July 1, 2012

You do ask for fiction sooo...

If you need a break from the serious reading about the (horribly destructive) 30 years war you can check out Eric Flint's book 1632 for free online at the Baen free library. It's an alternate history where a small town from year 2000 West Virginia gets dropped into northern Germany in 1632, just in time to decisively affect the events of the 30 years war. The plot can get a bit silly, and for some reason Flint is constitutionally incapable of writing about new characters meeting each other without someone having a love at first sight moment, but it's fun and optimistic about the average person and tries hard (if not always successfully) to avoid projecting modern sensibilities onto people from the 1630s.
posted by Wretch729 at 3:30 PM on July 11, 2012

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