The conflicts known as the Thirty Years’ War fundamentally altered the balance of power in Europe. Indeed, it could certainly be argued that modern diplomacy is ‘Renaissance diplomacy in disguise’, largely as a result of this. The conflict forced into being allegiances and alliances that can still be seen today and which in part shaped subsequent conflicts within European nation states.
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Initially, the Thirty Years’ War was a religious conflict, though resulting from a ‘complex sequence of events’ , but it quickly escalated into a more comprehensive power struggle in the Holy Roman Empire:The Thirty Years’ War may be viewed from two aspects–a European and a German one. In respect of the first, it was the last of the great religious wars, closing the epoch of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, proving to the Catholic Powers of Europe that their ideal unity was no longer attainable and teaching mankind, by the rudest possible process, the hard lesson of toleration. In respect of the second, it had a somewhat similar effect. Germany was a Europe in miniature; her nominal unity under the Hapsburgs was a parallel to the Catholic ideal unity of Europe under the Pope and the Emperor. This unity was blasted forever by the muskets of the opposing armies. But worse than this; when the war began Germany was a rich country, as the countries of Europe then went. She was really full of cities, which, though their main threads of commerce were fast snapping, might yet fairly be called very flourishing. When the war ended she was a desert. The decimation is extremely significant since it gives an insight into why the proactive, even aggressive, aspect to German territorial diplomacy in modern terms can be seen to be historically traceable and Renaissance diplomacy allied to it in embryo. In addition, it can be seen that the conflict itself was an integral part of the way in which countries were perceived and in how they perceived themselves, for example ‘Renaissance Denmark’ was expanding and wished to gain control with Sweden over ports on the Baltic which were in German hands. This period of aggression facilitated individual concerns such as this, both within and outside of the Empire, as well as exposing entrenched grievances and Church power over lands which they were reluctant to give up even after changing religion: ‘Everything depended on bringing the doubtful ecclesiastical principalities into the hands of men whose power and whose orthodoxy should alike be undoubted’ . Thus, it can be seen that the Thirty Years’ War is not easy to define in terms of the precise nature of its cause.
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