History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 1988: Q.6

History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 1988: Q.6

Q.6 Examine the view that the thirty years’ war (1618-1648) was essentially a contest between the Bourbon and Hapsburg houses for mastery of the Continent of Europe. How far did it settle the issue?


The Thirty Years’ War was one of the most destructive war in the European history. The War began in 1618 when Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II of Bohemia attempted to impose Catholism on his Protestant subjects, sparking rebellion among Protestants.

The conflict spread from an intrastate rebellion into a full-scale war between the Protestant North German states (which was later joined by Denmark and Sweden); and the Catholic powers with the Holy Alliance of Austria, Spain and the Papal States.
It gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe, becoming less about religion and more a continuation of the Bourbon-Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.

By defeating Protestant states, Emperor Ferdinand II had consolidated power in the Holy Roman Empire. This made Catholic Power France, which was ruled by the House of Bourbon, worried about being surrounded by Hapsburg powers, as the Hapsburg family had members installed as both the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. France had always regarded the encirclement by the Habsburg powers as a permanent threat, and had earlier fought several wars to prevent a Habsburg pre-eminence in Europe. Hence, to stop Hapsburg hegemony in Europe, Catholic France entered the coalition on the side of the Protestants to counter the Habsburgs.

Hence, it can be said that the thirty years’ war, which started as a religious conflict, was essentially evolved into a contest between the Bourbon and Hapsburg houses for mastery of the Continent of Europe.

How far did the Thirty Years’ War settle the issue of Bourbon-Hapsburg rivalry for the mastery of Europe?

In German province of Westphalia, the contending powers finally met to end the bloodshed in 1648. By this time, the balance of power in Europe had been radically changed. Hapsburg power Spain had lost not only the Netherlands but its dominant position in western Europe. The member states of the Holy Roman Empire were granted full sovereignty amd Hapsburg house weakened. Bourbon power France was now the master of the continental Europe. Hence, the war had settled the issue of mastery upto certain extent, but the rivalry still continued.

Later by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, Spain’s the power lf Spanish Hapsburg house continued its descent. The Austrian Habsburgs was also weakening with ever declining Holy Roman Empire. After the death of the last Spanish Habsburg Charles II in 1700, King Louis XIV of France claimed the Spanish throne for his grandson Philip. This caused the War of the Spanish Succession. In the treaty which followed, Louis XIV succeeded in installing the Bourbon dynasty in a Spain and in bringing the Habsburg encirclement of France to an end and the rivalry also virtually ended.


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