Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I'm Reading: The Thirty Years War by Peter H. Wilson

On my current list of books I'm reading is The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson. I started reading this nearly two years ago. Mostly this was to gain some information about Europe before and immediately after the 1622-24 time frame of my campaign. It was one of the citations in a previous article about France's Princes de Sang. It has also been useful in providing background events for some of the characters, e.g. Gaston's participation in the Battle of White Mountain outside of Prague. 

Wilson's book is academically solid while still being readable and approachable for the non-academic interested in history. It was first published in 2009 so it has the benefit of modern scholarship regarding the Thirty Years War (TYW). While there is a long standing tradition, especially in Germany, that the war was the most devastating event ever, Wilson shows that while there was terrible devastation locally and at certain times, other parts of the Germanys and the Holy Roman Empire in general were relatively untouched by war or had extensive periods of peace and even economic and population growth. This contrast is ripe with roleplaying color and opportunities for an historically based campaign. 

Wilson outlines the causes and events leading up to the TYW, including a significant section on the "Turkish Menace." It is difficult to overstate how much of a concern the Turks were to the Hapsburgs in the Holy Roman Empire as well as in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And not just the Hapsburgs - all the Eastern European countries were threatened by the Turks and the actions of the Sublime Porte were watched closely by them and by other countries, such as France, who saw the Turks as potential allies or counters to Hapsburg power.

Battles are always of interest to the wargamer and often of interest to roleplayers. Of course Wilson covers the major battles and he does so in what I find an appropriate amount of detail in an overview, i.e. he includes enough detail, but not too much detail. And he includes tactical maps, which I always find useful for visualizing battles. And speaking of visualization, the 40 period illustrations Wilson includes are of particular use and interest for roleplaying.

I continue to read through Wilson's book or perhaps I should say tome as it is just short of 1000 pages and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about the causes, actions, and consequences of the TYW.

I unreservedly give it 4 out of 4 stars.

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