Post-Reformation Europe’s Bloodsoaked Stage for Hope of Ages Past
It began with a tiny spark of rebellion in Prague, capital city of the Kingdom of Bohemia. When it ended three decades later, more than eight million souls had been sacrificed on the altar of religious zealotry intertwined with lust for national power and dominion.
Between 1618 and 1648, the brutal Thirty Years War—initially fueled by unrelenting strife between Catholics and Protestants—pitted the private mercenaries and national armies of Sweden, Denmark, England, France, and the Netherlands against the forces of Catholic Spain and the central European nation-states of the Catholic-led Holy Roman Empire (HRE).
The war’s chief battleground was Germany (officially part of the HRE, even though many of the north German cities and states had by then converted to Lutheranism). No nation’s citizens suffered as terribly as did the German people. Most were unwilling participants, drawn into the fray simply because they had no easy way to escape from powerful armies besieging their cities or from cruel mercenary soldiers raiding their countryside cottages. By war’s end, it is estimated that over 20% of the entire German population had perished as a result of war-related violence, starvation, or plague, and that the German economy had been set back by at least a generation.
Inspired to research the war following a tour of Central Europe with my wife in 2012, I became intrigued with the question of what it might really have been like for German citizens of various “classes” to experience such trauma and devastation. How did they live? How did they think? What was the basis and extent of their religious beliefs, their family and romantic interactions, their compassion for friends, neighbors, and strangers? Most importantly, when the war struck their cities and homes, WHAT was it that enabled at least some citizens to courageously fight back and endure their nightmarish trials—believing that survival was possible, and that a better day would eventually come?
So was born my idea for writing Hope of Ages Past, an epic novel of enduring faith, love, and the Thirty Years War. It is my sincere desire that all who read this work will find it emotionally engaging, informative, challenging, inspirational, and, above all, a fitting testament to those brave souls of 17th Century Germany who refused to give up in the face of impossible odds.
For an excellent, quick-read summary of key events and personalities of the Thirty Years War, click here.
For more complete, in-depth historical description and analysis of the war, I highly recommend Wilson’s authoritative work: The Thirty Years War (Europe's Tragedy) by Peter H. Wilson.
—Author Bruce Gardner