Saturday, 23 May 2009

A dreadful war

This day…..391 years ago saw the wonderfully named defenestration of Prague when the mainly Protestant Bohemians grabbed three of their Catholic king’s henchmen and threw them out of a window at the royal castle. The officials’ fall was broken by a pile of rubbish and they escaped serious injury.

But peace also went out of the window on May 23, 1618, and for the next 30 years central Europe was turned into a battlefield for contending armies. The Thirty Years War, as it became known, began as a fight for mastery between Protestants and Catholics, and ended as a power struggle between Catholic France and Catholic Spain and Austria.

By the time it ended in 1648, the destruction was almost beyond belief. Perhaps 8 million people had been killed or had died from starvation or disease out of a population of 21 million, though some places suffered far worse. Bohemia was said to have lost almost three quarters of its people, while Chemnitz lost perhaps five sixths. A Swedish general declared: “I would not have believed a land could be so despoiled had I not seen it with my own eyes.”

See also my blog of May 20, and A Disastrous History of the World.

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