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The Thirty Years’ WarTHE HAPSBURG S DEMISEOn October 24, 1648 in Munster a treaty was signed that ended one of the most bloody wars in European history. This war, a war of religion, involved most of Western Europe, especially the Holy Roman Empire. The Thirty Years War marked the decline socially, politically, and economically of the Hapsburgs and the rise of France as the chief power in Europe. As a result of the Thirty Years War, the Hapsburgs lost their standing as the wealthiest dynasty in Europe. The war was an economic drain on the empire, due to increased cost of arms and men. After the Hapsburgs Catholic league army was defeated in 1632 by the Swedes the Hapsburgs only hope for victory was to resort to the uses of mercenaries, a factor that contributed to further economic decline. The Holy Roman Empire then had to depend on soldiers of fortune for the remaining 16 years of the war. These mercenaries were out of control. The mercenaries were almost worse then the invaders. The mercenaries would loot the cities that they were supposed to be protecting because they needed the supplies. The commanders of the mercenaries could not control them and in some cases they would even help with the looting. With the Holy Roman Empire s defeat the country lay in shambles. No less then half of the German people perished during the war. Two thirds of all of the industrial, agricultural, and commercial facilities were ruined. With its entire economic structure destroyed and half of its workers killed, the Holy Roman Empire had to resort to outside sources to import the goods that the Holy Roman Empire needed to survive. This condition contributed to an unfavorable balance of trade. This trade deficit forced the Hapsburg to use the wealth acquired in the 16th century to recap their loses. Thus the Holy Roman Empire lost its edge and could not recover economically. Politically the Holy Roman Empire would never be the same after the Thirty Years War. This was a religious war that tore the Holy Roman Empire along religious lines. Originally the Hapsburgs and the princes of the Holy Roman Empire were competing against each other for the control of the empire. In order to gain a edge on the princes the Hapsburgs went to the papacy to get support. From this point on the princes felt no loyalty to the papacy. It was this lack of loyalty that made the princes very susceptible to Protestantism. The fact that now these two parties were from opposite religion it just gave them the excuse that they needed to fight each other. France wanted to become the most powerful nation in Europe. In order to accomplish this France had to conquer the Hapburgs and they could do this with the help of the German Princes. found a powerful ally in the German princes. France was a predominately Catholic country but in the Thirty Years War it used the Protestant religion as a reason to fight the Hapsburgs. By using the help of the princes the Hapsburgs could not win. France set up the Peace of Westphalia when they won the war. By creating the treaty of Westphalia France could control the government of the Holy Roman Empire and insure that it would never be as powerful as it once was.
The social ramifications, particularly due to religion of the Thirty Years War were felt long after the war. Religion following the Thirty Years War no longer served as a major factor in the life of the people of the Holy Roman Empire. The demise of religion as a force was due to the defeat of the Catholic element which had served initially as the justification for the war itself. Furthermore, the social structure was altered due to the lowering of the education standards in the Holy Roman Empire. The people of this empire were more preoccupied with survival then education. This was evident from the lack of new ideas and literature that came out of the universities of the Holy Roman Empire. Another ramification of the Thirty Years War was the fact that the population of the Holy Roman Empire was cut in half. The Thirty Years War marked the decline of the Hapsburgs and the rise of France as the chief power in Europe. The Thirty Years War left the Holy Roman Empire in shambles. The Holy Roman Empire s economy was almost completely destroyed. Also the war left the government no way to fix the economy. The social structure of the Empire also was devastated by the war. The demise of the Holy Roman Empire is an example of how a house that is divided against itself can not stand.
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