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The Thirty Years War (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 30, 2005
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"A book which is, and will long remain, the standard authority on the subject…I doubt if there is anything in any European language which covers the ground so comprehensively and so satisfactorily."
"[Wedgwood] tells a story supremely well….she is by far the best narrative historian writing in the English language. She is a superb stylist, her eye for colorful detail is unerring, and she has an unrivaled capacity for catching the signs and sounds and smells of the past."
— Lawrence Stone
"God, I love this book. It’s the history of an utterly depressing war with no real nobility that ultimately descends into cannibalism. Right up my alley.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates, "My 10 Favorite Books," T: New York Times Style Magazine
"The greatest narrative historian of the twentieth century, Wedgwood told complex stories in precise, human terms. The formal perfection and clarity of her prose often recall the work of one of her heroes, Edward Gibbon. Yet she contemplated and described in rapid, vivid detail scenes of past and present horror that would have robbed even the unflappable historian of the Roman Empire of his marmoreal calm. The Thirty Years War shows her at her epic best."
— From the introduction by Anthony Grafton
"This is a masterful narrative, written by one of the great exponents of that all-too-rare skill. Threading her way through one of the most complex and fraught eras of European history, Wedgwood gives all who have followed her an object lesson in clarity and readability that has not been surpassed."
— Theodore K. Rabb, Princeton University
About the Author
Cicely Veronica Wedgwood (1910–1997) was born into an innovative and intellectual English family. Her father, a direct descendant of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, was the chief general manager of the London and North Eastern Railway and her mother was a novelist and travel writer. After success at Oxford, Wedgwood rejected an academic career and took up writing instead. She published her first history, The Thirty Years War (1938), before her thirtieth birthday, and in the years that followed wrote a succession of chronicles of seventeenth-century Europe that made her one of the most popular and best-known historians in Britain. Her most important works include The King’s Peace; The King’s War; and William the Silent: William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533–1584, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 1944. She was a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies, a Dame of the British Empire, and in 1969 became the third woman to be appointed a member of the British Order of Merit.
Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University. His most recent book is The Culture of Correction in Renaissance Europe.
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This history provides a full and well-researched overview of the troubled 17th century. To be followed by the 100 years war.
Wedgwood does an excellent job describing this war and brings new life to the English narrative historical tradition in doing so. She can rightly take her place beside Gibbon, Hume and McCauley in combining a meticulous description of events with colourful descriptions of the men (and women) who were players in this grisly drama that left what I suppose we'll call Greater Germany a wasteland for the most part. She is equally adept at describing the horrendous plight of the commoners: Resorting to cannibalism, at the mercy of the soldiery of different nations, and the general breakdown of law and order among them---as when a father tries to take a soldier to court for deflowering and murdering his daughter. The defence is simply that had the victim in question not been so overprotective of her virginity, things would never have come to this pass, as she is at depicting the petty, time-consuming squabbles of the aristocrats at the various Diets. Particularly important was where one sat at these convenings. One was liable to start a new round of fighting by insulting a Prince or Diplomat by not putting him in his right spot at the table.
All this makes for a splendid work on a nauseating period in history. It is THE recommended book, I should say, for all those interested. But, personally, I think I'll fall back and choose something less....gruesome....for my next read.
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