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Civilians and War in Europe, 1618–1815$
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Erica Charters, Eve Rosenhaft, and Hannah Smith

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781846317118

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846317699

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date: 24 November 2017

Was the Thirty Years War a ‘Total War’?

Was the Thirty Years War a ‘Total War’?

Chapter:
(p.21) 2 Was the Thirty Years War a ‘Total War’?
Source:
Civilians and War in Europe, 1618–1815
Author(s):

Peter H. Wilson

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/UPO9781846317699.002

This chapter examines the Thirty Years War by focusing on three aspects identified in the ‘classic’ definition of ‘total war’: total mobilisation, the complete destruction of the enemy's resistance and way of life, and the erosion of boundaries between soldiers and civilians. It considers how the war was perceived by those involved and later generations. The chapter argues that the concept of total war can be defined through perceptions and not in material or demographic terms, and is therefore relative to each conflict's context rather than its position along any linear progress of destruction. The Thirty Years War was considered far more destructive than the world wars and remembered as Germany's greatest national catastrophe, although this chapter shows that it does not satisfy the three standard criteria for a total war.

Keywords:   Thirty Years War, total war, mobilisation, destruction, civilians, soldiers, Germany

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