Initially, the Thirty Years War was precipitated in 1618 by religious conflicts between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. But the conflict soon spread beyond religion to encompass the internal politics and balance of power within the Empire, and then later to the other European powers. By the end, it became simply a dynastic struggle between Bourbon France and Habsburg Spain. And almost all of it was fought out in Germany. After 30 years of conflict, entire regions of Germany and Bohemia were depopulated and destroyed by marching armies, fire, famine, and disease. It bankrupted most of the participants while leaving thousands of German villages, towns, and even cities in smoldering ruin.
Because of the political and geographical complexity of the early 17th century, an understanding of The Thirty Years War can be difficult to grasp in the beginning. Listeners will be rewarded by patience. As an aid to comprehension, we recommend the online Wikipedia article "The Thirty Years War" for maps and overviews of the geography, principle leaders, and major battles.
Total running time: 19 hours and 48 minutes. Narrator: Charlton Griffin.
©1938 Estate of C. V. Wedgwood (P)2012 Audio Connoisseur
Be warned to appreciate this book to the fullest you have to have some knowledge of European History and Geography -- something too few people have to this day.
This is the best book written on the great Thirty Years War which reshaped European History and the map of Europe for many centuries. In fact it is only today that modern diplomats are tearing apart the Peace Of Westphalia and all that it means.
This is basically a classic European power struggle between Catholics and Protestants, Bourbon and Hapsburgs, The Holy Roman Empire vs. the rest of Europe. It involves some of the great names of European History -- Wallenstein, Tilly, Gustavus Adolphus, Richelieu, etc.
The book is very detailed and describes all the major battles in great detail as well as the political struggles between the various small duchies of Germany and electors. One of the results was to lead to the rise of the Hohenzollerns. The personalities of all the numerous leaders our described in great detail. and you listen with fascination to the various political machinations of the various leaders.
The brutality of the war is not overlooked either. One of the unfortunate aspects of the war was that is coincided with the period of Black Plague in Europe which wiped out soldiers, generals and citizens alike. As the armies roamed over Europe they looted, sacked and burned the cities. Her description of the destruction of Magdeburg is outstanding as this great city was burnt to the ground. Starvation became so great that there was evidence of canabilism among the desparate populace.
The Thirty Years War combined with the Black Plague wiped out over half to 2/3 the population of Europe. It left ruined cities, burned out villages, and fallow fields. It took centuries for Europe to recover from the aftermath of this great war. It was more devastating to Europe than was World War I or II.
No person interested in modern History should miss this book. There is no other book like it, but it may take some of you some background preparation to understand it. Above all you might want to print out a map of Europe in 1618 to have by you as a reference if you are not familiar with the names, places, and geography of Europe.
The reader is excellent. I don't think they could have chosen a better one to read this book. This is a book you will want to listen to several time to appreciate it, just like you have to read the original book several times to understand all the facts and nuances it contains.
I remember taking a course in this period of European History. This book was required reading - and you got tested on all the detail so you needed to read it through several times. But it so well written that reading and listening to it is an enjoyable experience. It is a work of literature as well as history -- too bad so few writers, can write as well as Wedgewood.
Don't be daunted by the size and complexity - take it a listen to in small bites if you have to - you won't be disappointed.
I like to read but listening is better.
I only rated this 3-stars despite giving the performance 5 and the story 4. The reason for this--and I've had this problem several times with exhaustive military histories--is that I probably only managed to get 75% of this book. It was just really difficult to keep up with all the unfamiliar names and titles and countries and territories. And you're learning about the complex foreign policies of all of these different entities. I think if you're familiar with the Thirty Years War this book would have to be a 5-star. But if, like me, you have no previous knowledge of the Thirty Years War, it may be a bit overwhelming at times. However, it was very well written and entertaining. Extremely informative. And the narrator absolutely crushes this thing. At first he may seem a touch over-dramatic but you'll soon get used to it and appreciate it. Griffin's style of narration is absolutely perfect for this book.
The title of my review refers to the content of the book and the effort involved to take in the material in the book.
The Thirty Years War was incredibly destructive. Somewhere I read that it set back civilization and development 200 years in Germany. Death came during the battles, from disease and the rampaging of the armies through the countryside. For thirty years armies marched up and down Germany and when they camped they destroyed the area they lived in. In one episode the peasants attacked the soldiers, knowing they would get killed, because they refused to be passive victims of circumstances. The war began with a revolt in Prague and it seemed like at one time or another every country, duchy and city got into the fight.
It was a period of great social and political change. At the beginning of the war everyone was fighting about religion. At the end it was nations fighting each other. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and Ferdinand III of Austria were just two of the fascinating characters among the leadership.
It was a well written book, good literature. It was also long, complex and full of all kinds of different people. It takes a commitment to develop a good understanding of the people and events. The narrator helped. His voice had a nice tone and pace which helped make the listening enjoyable. I am glad I read it and I recommend it. Now I want to learn more about this era.
After reading this book I can't tell you anything more about the Thirty Year's War than I already knew; the author failed at storytelling. I've read tough histories (e.g., Thucydides) before, but this book abandons all pretense at chronology. The chapters themselves are coherent, and many are well written. However, the book reads as if the various chapters were scattered to wind and then those that were recovered were stitched together in approximately the right order with great stretches of the narrative gone. More than once I reacted to the disclosure of a date like "What?! its 1640? I though we were still talking about 1626!"
This a history usually passed over in the history books as "Catholics vs Protestants" so when the chance to delve into the nuances of this historic Germanic conflict I jumped at the purchase; I was however disappointed.
C. V. Wedgwood has a good grasp of the events which transpired however she presents them in a disjointed fashion, changing her subject and setting often and needlessly. One is just beginning to grasps the intrigues between the Hapsburg when she begins droning about the protestant players. It is a style that is hard to follow.
There is also the perfunctory manner with which she endows the major protagonist of the war with character traits and personalities. There is a constant effort identify this who was the most ignorant general, who the most inconsiderate monarch and on, but these are things told to you rather than ideas explored an backed up with sources as it should be. After reading Barbara W. Tuchman, I know what a good history sounds like and this is not it in the slightest.
If it is necessary to deliver this audiobook with a British accent, I would hire a genuine British person to read it. I do not think there is anything wrong with a scholarly book written by an English person read by an American who speaks with a clear voice and good articulation in his or her native accent.
Mr Griffin's voice is pleasant enough, but he speaks with a fruity, fake British accent that fails because he uses the American pronunciation of certain words, which is really quite jarring. For example, "route" in British English is pronounced in the French fashion: like "root" (as in root vegetable), not "rout" (as in humiliating defeat).
CV Wedgwood's "The Thirty Years War" is a classic. Nuff said.
This fine book and reading are not improved by the addition of music. The drama the music is meant to represent or enhance is already present in the text, or it is not. Audio Connoisseur fails to grasp this fundamental fact. This is baffling.
To express it a different way: A book's music is in its words.
I will continue to listen to Audio Connoisseur's offerings despite this glaring flaw.
It's a bit dated compared to more recently written war histories. The sweeping one-line characterizations of personalities and moods would be rare in a modern history, for example. But the book is clearly an incredibly thoroughly-researched masterpiece, and really transports you into the strange, chaotic era of the 30 Years' War.
I LOVE HISTORY!!!
Though the story can be a little hard to follow, it does offer some valuable insight into the events surrounding the Thirty Years War. Be prepared for a very long book with lots of characters!
"Too much detail presented too quickly."
Anyone who doesn't pronounce 'often' as 'orfen'. There were several other instances of pronunciation I found rather strange. The reading was far too lackadaisical, as if he could only just be bothered to read it.
It was just too hard to follow in audio format. Too many names and too much information thrown at the listener. It would be far better as a book.
"Still the best book on Thirty Years War"
She retains the narrative sweep and pace throughout while still writing a serious history.
The audiobook is ruined by the narrator with truly absurd pronunciation ( presumably Prog is Prague !!) and the wholly superfluous music and WEEPING !! at the start of later chapters.
There are many, essentially the anecdotal touches of detail which a more "serious" book might eschew.
Unless the narrator was acting in it.
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