The Social and Economic Impact of the Thirty Years War

The Social and Economic Impact of the Thirty Years War

The social and economic impact of the Thirty Years War varied throughout Europe. In some areas in Europe, especially in Germany, the Thirty Years War had a devastating impact. Although the majority of Germany suffered from famine and economic ruin, there were regions that came out of the war relatively unscathed. Some city states, including Leipzig, Hamburg and Danzig, actually profited from the war.

Historian are split into two camps on the matter. One camp argues that the Thirty Years War had a disastrous effect on Germany, bringing its once prosperous economy to its knees. The other believes Germany was already on the edge of economic collapse, and the Thirty Years War merely pushed her over the edge.

Thirty Years War
Thirty Years War

Whatever the Empire’s economic condition before the war, it is undeniable that the vast majority of the territory was hard hit by the conflict. This is supported by Lutheran theologian Joachim Betke, writing 20 years after the war:

“How miserable is now the state of the large cities! Where in former times there were a thousand lanes, today there are no more than a hundred. How wretched is the state of the small and open market towns! There they lie, burnt, decayed, destroyed, so that you see neither roofs nor rafters, doors or windows. Think of how they treated nunneries, churches, priories and temples: They have burnt them, carried the bells away, turned them into cesspits, stables, sutlerships and brothels…. Oh God, how pitiable is the state of the villages …! You travel ten, twenty or forty miles without seeing a single human being, no livestock, not one sparrow, if there are not some few places where you find one or two old men or women or a child”.

Some historians even argue that Germany’s advance was held back by 100 years after the war due the devastation to her finances, population and culture. Agriculture was stagnating, industry, arts and trade weakened and whole towns had been destroyed.

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Social and Economic Impact of the Thirty Years War". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.