The Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies presents the 32st Annual Town and Gown Lecture. The lecture is free of charge and open to the public.
About the Lecture:
The Thirty Years’ War was the most destructive conflict in Europe prior to the two twentieth- century world wars. The population of the Holy Roman Empire, the war’s principal battleground, was reduced by at least a fifth and did not recover its pre-war level for over 60 years after this terrible struggle was finally concluded in the Peace of Westphalia. Large swathes of the Empire were left almost depopulated, pockmarked with abandoned or burned-out farms. The war was brutal from the outset and was widely perceived as spiraling out of control to become what one later historian has called the “supreme example of meaningless violence.” Closer examination reveals that this was not in fact the case and that military operations remained under the authorities’ control and were pursued to achieve political objectives. This lecture explores why most contemporaries saw things differently and instead felt that the violence exceeded all known bounds. Drawing on a wealth of eyewitness accounts, diaries, memoirs and contemporary images, it will examine how they perceived the war and especially the associated violence, as well as identify how they tried to cope with living through extraordinary circumstances. Without seeking to diminish the genuine horror, it will reveal just how varied peoples’ experiences were, and how war and its effects were accommodated within “normal” life.
About the Speaker:
Peter H. Wilson is Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College. He has worked at the universities of Hull, Newcastle and Sunderland, and has been a visiting fellow at the University of Münster in Germany. His books include The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History (Penguin/Harvard UP, 2016), with Chinese and Italian translations forthcoming, and Europe’s Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War (2009) which won the Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book Award, and has been translated into Polish, German and Spanish, with Chinese and Macedonian translations due later in 2018. His latest book, Lützen, was published January 2018 by Oxford University Press.