Thirty Years' War: History, Events, Timeline, And Death Count

By Grace Taylor
Batalla de Rocroi, 1643. (Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau/Wikimedia Commons)

The Thirty Years' War is one of the least-discussed European conflicts despite the fact that its estimated death toll is higher than the American Civil War and Napoleonic Wars combined. That's partially because the war was 30 years long and frankly confusing, with many of the issues facing the people of Europe being compounded by a sudden mini ice age that devastated agriculture. It is nonetheless an important war, as it was arguably the last true religious war of European history.

Centuries after Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to a church door, the Protestant Reformation was still going strong, but by the turn of the 17th century, most people had figured out how to live in peace. Even the Hapsburg-run Holy Roman Empire managed to rule areas of Protestant majority with relatively little conflict until 1618, when the new emperor, Ferdinand II, rescinded the Letter of Majesty which promised religious freedom to Protestants and instead claimed all of the Holy Roman Empire as Catholic land.