The Open Door Web Site
The Shaping of Modern Europe Index
The English Reformation
17th Century Europe
The Conflict Begins
THE SHAPING OF MODERN EUROPE
17th Century Europe
Historians often describe this period of European history as a century of war. There were wars of conquest and liberation, civil wars and (so-called) wars of religion which dramatically changed the relationships between countries. These wars produced the decline of Spain, which was replaced by France as the major continental power. Sweden emerged as the great power of the Baltic region. Two revolutions in England produced a unique form of government, and the creation of the United Provinces introduced into Europe an energetic and powerful center of trade as well as a major cultural center.
The Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648)
This conflict dominated the first half of the 17th century. In order to understand how a local quarrel within the Holy Roman Empire rapidly developed into a general European war it is necessary to look back to the period of Emperor Charles V (1519-1556).
Portrait of Charles V by Titian
The Protestant Reformation spread first to some of the German states of Charles V's empire. He was a devout Catholic with the dream of creating a European empire with one ruler and one Church (Charlemagne had the same dream), and so he went to war against his own subjects in order to crush the Lutheran and Calvinist heresies. By 1555, Charles had to admit defeat and was forced to sign a peace treaty with the Protestants of the Empire. "The Peace of Augsburg", as it came to be known, said that the ruler of each state within the Empire could impose his own religion on all of his subjects. The Catholic princes were content because this meant that Protestantism could not spread any further, whereas the Protestants were pleased because it guaranteed the future of their faith and even gave it official recognition for the first time. It was the Peace of Augsburg that finally convinced Charles that he had failed as the greatest Catholic ruler of Europe, and he abdicated the following year. The Peace of Augsburg, nevertheless, did bring peace to the Holy Roman Empire for over fifty years, a quite remarkable achievement when we think of what was happening in the rest of Europe.
The Open Door Web Site is non-profit making. Your donations help towards the cost of maintaining this free service on-line.
Donate to the Open Door Web Site using PayPal