Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


History (HIST)

First Advisor

Lawrence Tritle


The Thirty Years War stands as one of the most cataclysmic events of German history — and one of the most contentiously remembered. Beginning during the war and encouraged down to our own century, writers and scholars have recorded the Thirty Years War as either a string of wanton destructions or an event far less horrible than the many extant eyewitness testimonies to its horrors. This dispute has obscured the realities of death and suffering. In 17th century warfare, plunder and scavenging were appropriate behavior for a conquering army — within certain bounds. While it would be simplistic and grossly naïve to argue that the war “wasn’t all that bad,” neither can it be said that the war represented a total breakdown of contemporary understandings of acceptable conduct. What was the reality of military violence against civilians in the Thirty Years War? Were events like the Sack of Magdeburg the exception or the norm? How was such behavior by soldiers characterized within the existing economy of violence? Based on accounts written by soldiers and civilians who experienced the war, this thesis argues that the abuses committed against civilians by soldiers were for the most part not instances of unusual cruelty, but rather of the destruction integral to warfare.