Today in History
Travel to Germany
Facts About Germany
Thirty Years' War
German Chocolate Cake
How To in Germany
The Peace of Westphalia
The Peace of Westphalia largely settled German affairs for the next century
and a half. It ended religious conflicts between the states and included
official recognition of Calvinism. Its signatories altered the boundaries
of the empire by recognizing that Switzerland and the Netherlands had
become sovereign states outside the empire. Portions of Alsace and Lorraine
went to France. Sweden received some territory in northern Germany, which
in the long run it could not retain. Brandenburg became stronger, as did
Saxony and Bavaria.
In addition, states within the empire acquired greater
independence with the right to have their own foreign policies and form
alliances, even with states outside the empire. As a result of these changes,
the Holy Roman Empire lost much of what remained of its power and would
never again be a significant actor on the international stage. The Habsburgs
would continue to be crowned emperors, but their strength would derive
from their own holdings, not from leadership of the empire. Germany was
less united in 1648 than in 1618, and German particularism had been strengthened
The Thirty Years' War had a devastating effect on the German people.
Historians have usually estimated that between one-fourth and one-third
of the population perished from direct military causes or from illness
and starvation related to the war. Some regions were affected much more
than others. For example, an estimated three-quarters of Wuerttemberg's
population died between 1634 and 1639. Overall losses were serious enough
that historians believe that it took a century after the Thirty Years'
War for Germany's population to reach the level of 1618.
Germany's economy was also severely disrupted by the ravages of the Thirty
Years' War. The war exacerbated the economic decline that had begun in
the second half of the sixteenth century as the European economy shifted
westward to the Atlantic states--Spain, France, England, and the Low Countries.
The shift in trade meant that Germany was no longer located at the center
of European commerce but on its fringes. The thriving economies of many
German towns in the late Middle Ages and first half of the sixteenth century
gradually dried up, and Germany as a whole entered a long period of economic
stagnation that ended only in the second half of the nineteenth century.
- The Counter-Reformation
and Religious Tensions
- Military Campaigns
- The Peace of Westphalia