The Thirty Years War

Narrated by: Charlton Griffin
Length: 19 hrs and 45 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (566 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

What listeners say about The Thirty Years War

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One of the World's Great History Books.

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.

62 people found this helpful

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Hard work

A cast of 1,000's, the 30 year's war is a hard slog. Probably a better read the second time round. Not for the faint hearted

12 people found this helpful

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One of the best

The best history of the Thirty Years War I have read or heard. It is amazingly understandable and I am thrilled to have found it.

7 people found this helpful

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I could listen to Mr. Griffin read the phonebook

seriously, one of the best narrations I've ever heard & this topic (the thirty years war), a personal favorite of mine. I could not have asked for a better product and recommend it to ameture historians (such as myself) or anyone looking for a great story read very well.

12 people found this helpful

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Thorough and Well Written

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.

9 people found this helpful

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Not for the Weak of Heart

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.

14 people found this helpful

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Well done Wedgwood!

The story of the thirty years war is immensely complex and hard to tell. It is also hard to keep the reader interested while delving deep into the religious, political and economic reasons and consequences of the conflict.
Wedgwood however manages to create a captivating narrative, weaving in descriptions of facinating characters, enviroments and ways of life which have no place in our modern society - while never forgetting to point out the horror and human depravation that followed the hordes of brigands which were the armies of these days.

I would recommend a basic knowledge of the reformation, the holy roman empire of the german nation and a map of 17th-century europe before you listen to this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic look at the Thirty Years War

This book details the plight of Germany from pre 1618 to just a little after 1648. The bulk of the writting details the war in political terms and general military movement. There isn't a ton of detailed battles, save a few important ones such as White Mountain and when details of new/cutting edge battle techniques are required. The chapters are clearly defined and the overall flow of the writing is excellent. Additionally, the narration is fantastic.

2 people found this helpful

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Compelling narrative for an underexplored era

I had little to no experience or understanding of how the 30 years war impacted European history before listening to this book. I found Wedgwood's writing to be very engaging and was enthralled from beginning to end. The narrator has one of those great voices for history audiobooks and is definitely partly why I've enjoyed this book so much. I've relistened to it a couple years later and it's just as engaging the second time.

2 people found this helpful

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"War breeds only war."

An emotionally charged history which is like none other that I have read. While it is true of older and, specifically, British narrative histories that the authors often inject their opinions and interpretations, and thus are different than more modern works, this is different.
This book was written in the late 1930s. It seems clear that the author chose to write about the 30 years war as a commentary on contemporary politics. The resigned and mourning tone of the narrative along with its well matched narration lend poignancy to the message contained within.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tony Howard
  • 01-14-19

CV Wedgwood's classic history

I struggled with the narration, to be honest. Charlton Griffin is well-known, an award-winning narrator. At first I suspected that Mr Griffin was in fact a robot, since his words are perfectly formed but he doesn't give any indication of understanding what he's reading. I don't expect the narrator to be an expert in the subject, of course, but I do expect him to present naturally and sensitively, and allow the text to mean something. I got the hang of it, and am getting through it, but it's heavy going - not helped by a fair amount of mispronunciation; the problem here is not with non-English words and names, which are well done on the whole, but with strange forms of English words - sometimes the pronunciation is American, which is OK, but sometimes it appears that Mr Griffin simply hasn't come across this word before. Overall, he does a business-like job of getting through his task, rather than conveying Ms Wedgwood's meaning clearly. Other than that, this is the only audio version available, and it's not bad.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lord Peridot
  • 05-07-18

More poetry than history

The terrible saga of the 30 years war is recounted here like an epic poem. So many places, people, twists & turns. To get the most out of this history you probably need to know all about the war in the first place. For many listeners, myself included, the wonderful stentorian phrasing and pronunciation of Charlton Griffith is like a tragic symphony, washing over you, leaving an overall impression but no specific facts. Indeed I think I would have learnt more specific facts about the 30 years war by studying wikipedia for half an hour. Yet this is a great work of history. Its not so much that it is too detailed, its just that the events themselves are so numerous and complicated. Highly recommended but not for everyone.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Jamie Cowan
  • 11-21-18

Outstanding

I thoroughly enjoyed this one!
It is a bit of a bombardment of information, but I knew next to nothing of this time period and now feel I have a much better grasp of it, but more importantly, I find I'm now much more interested in it!

If you enjoy history and have an interest in war and all of its effects on country and population, I 100% recommend this book!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rhys
  • 11-05-18

The best book and a good narrator

First of all, Wedgwood is incredible. The book is not only incredibly accessible and interesting, but also deeply analytical and informative. The best I've read/listened to on the subject.

The narrator has been the subject of criticism in the comments. I don't feel this is entirely deserved. He is very dramatic which at first can be a touch jarring, however, once you are a few hours in to it, his reading lends an excellent feel to the gravity of certain situations. Particularly once the war really picks up steam.

I can not recommend this highly enough.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nell
  • 08-16-20

An excellent history with a truly appalling narra

I have this book in hardcopy and have delved through it before. The audiobook is for situations when I need to listen to something whilst otherwise busy with my hands. It is just as well I have the book or it would have taken me chapters and chapters to figure out what Prog was. Why on earth they chose a US narrator only heaven knows. I usually avoid US narrators like the plague except for books like Moby Dick etc which naturally should be read by an American voice. But in this case I cannot imagine what they were thinking

1 person found this helpful

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  • PandaBegs2Differ
  • 01-14-20

It’s Prague not Prog FFS!!!

A well written, if dry and detailed, book which I suspect had a bit more of a dry humour than the narrator managed to get across. Whilst the narrator has a pleasant tone, some of his pronunciations are a little strange. You may think this is not much of an issue but constant repetition of mispronunciations - bizarrely mixed with the same word being correctly pronounced sometimes almost in the same sentence - had me shouting at my iPad (see title).

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  • Manish
  • 06-08-19

Light out of Darkness

A great history of a very confusing topic and the constant chopping and changing of sides etc. Made sense to me finally. Would have liked more on the military aspects ie tactics, battle plans etc. Instead what we get is that someone won and that's it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 03-17-20

If you can adjust to the accent, a good reading.

A long, but interesting history read by Charlton Griffin...who takes a little bit of adjusting to, as his delivery is a sort of over-styled Received Pronunciation (...but with some egregious americanisms like his pronunciation of rout and route...) that can seem a bit odd at first
That said, once you do adjust, he provides a better performance than many versions of similar histories - just the right amount of emphasis and drama to avoid it being bland recitation but not overdoing it either.

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  • james
  • 02-22-18

great book, pleasing narration

I've listened to this book three time now. It's an extremely well written history of the period and the narrator actually does it credit, as dramatic as his narration appears. it suits the dramatic events or covers. highly recommended it

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  • Richard Kapustynskyj
  • 10-07-16

Good overview

I knew very little about the 30 years war before listening to this. It gave a good overview of the political machinations behind the was and made the conscious decision not to focus on the destruction.

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  • Shane
  • 05-29-16

The Best

This was the first book I ever listened to on audible and I am still trying to match it. There are not many new ideas put forward in this book, no interesting innovations, or controversial opinions. Just a well spoken, well written, nuanced look at one of the most interesting events in European history.

3 people found this helpful