Results of the Thirty Years’ War

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Results of the Thirty Years’ War

The Peace of Westphalia cemented the work begun under Ferdinand—the creation of a unified Austrian nation-state, which would before long become the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hapsburgs would continue to rule Austria into the twentieth century.

Provisions of the Peace of Westphalia

  • Restored borders within the Holy Roman Empire to their 1624 locations
  • Revoked the Edict of Restitution
  • Gave Alsace to France
  • Recognized Switzerland and the Netherlands as independent nation-states
  • Made Bavaria, Prussia, Saxony, and Wurttemberg self-governing, independent states within the Holy Roman Empire
  • Created a unified Austrian empire including Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and parts of Hungary

Since the war had been fought entirely within the Holy Roman Empire, the Germans suffered most from the violence. Of a total ethnic German population of about 17 million, historians agree that between 3.5 million and 7 mil- lion died; additionally, millions of acres of farmland were laid waste, and foreign troops released from combat duties were roaming the countryside, looting and murdering. German unification, which had seemed possible in the early 1600s, was set back for some time to come.

With north central Europe devastated by the war, France emerged as the dominant nation-state. Spain had lost its navy during the defeat of the Armada, Italy was still a collection of city-states that were constantly being invaded by Austria or France, and England, as always, maintained a measure of isolation on the far side of the English Channel. By contrast, France was a large, continuous landmass with a strong central position on the continent, and it had a strong central government. It would remain Europe’s greatest power until Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

The Holy Roman Empire would continue to exist on paper, but the emperor would have only nominal authority. Four of the electorates—Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurttemberg—were made independent, self-governing states owing pro forma allegiance to the emperor; the others were made part of the Austrian empire.

The Peace of Westphalia was the result of the monarchs and ministers gathering together—the first time this had happened in European history. The nations agreed to recognize one another’s sovereignty and to create and maintain a balance of power that would prevent future wars. The Peace of Westphalia was thus an important first step toward recognizing that affairs of state could be settled around a conference table rather than on the battlefield.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Thirty Years' War Practice Test

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