Consequences of Thirty Years War in Europe: Suffering of the Peasant Social Class
Europe as a whole was drastically altered by the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia socially, economically, politically, and religiously. Politically, the Holy Roman Empire had lost power and was no longer the center of Europe as other countries began to take over, Germany was broken up, The Dutch and Swiss declared their independence from the weakening Spanish Hapsburgs, and France along with Sweden came to be leaders in European commerce as Spain was crushed financially and bankrupt. Religiously, princes in Germany had the right to choose the religion of their provinces as Catholic, Lutheran or Calvinist. This caused a division religiously or based on religious affiliation within Europe with the Catholics in the south, Lutherans in central Germany, and the Calvinists in the northern part of Europe. “Socially, the Thirty Years War cause a significant number of problems, particularly for the peasant and working people” The only way to pay the vast amounts of money it required to prolong fighting was to heavily tax the citizens of the states at war. 2 In France, the rate of land tax paid by peasants doubled in the eight years after France joined the war. Along with the heavy taxation, governments deliberately depreciated the value of the currency, which resulted in inflation and soaring prices. With the working peasant class becoming even poorer and the cost of living rising, the poverty rate in parts of Europe skyrocketed. The upper class and the lower peasant social classes grew even farther apart. Crop producers used the war as an opportunity to increase crop prices knowing that people needed a good food supply during the time of war. That, along with bad harvests and food shortages caused a widespread famine in parts of Europe. “The Thirty Years War had a large impact on society in Germany as it decimated a larger portion of the German population,...
Cited: 1) Smith, Nicole. "The Consequences of the Thirty Years War". Article Myriad. 8/9/2008 .
2) Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, and Barbara H. Rosenwein. The Making of the West Vol. 2 : Peoples and Cultures, a Concise History since 1340. Boston: Bedford/Saint Martin 's, 2006. 503-06.
3) Cecile Augon, Social France in the XVIIthe Century, (London: Methuen, 1911), pp. 171-172, 189
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