History:Second Thirty Years' War

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Short description: Periodization scheme encompassing European wars from 1914 to 1945
This is about the term and historiography. For history of the period see World War I, World War II, etc..

"Second Thirty Years' War" is a periodization scheme sometimes used to encompass the wars in Europe from 1914 to 1945.[lower-alpha 1] Just as the Thirty Years' War of 1618 to 1648 was not a single war but a series of conflicts in varied times and locations, later organized and named by historians into a single period, the Second Thirty Years' War has been seen as a "European Civil War", fought over the problem of Germany and exacerbated by the new ideologies of fascism, Nazism and communism that came into power after World War I.[1] The thesis of the Second Thirty Years' War is that World War I naturally led to World War II; in this framework, the latter is the inevitable result of the former, and thus they can be seen as a single conflict.[2] Historians have criticized this thesis on the grounds that it excuses the actions of fascist and Nazi historical actors.[2]


The concept of a "Second Thirty Years' War" originated in 1946 with the former head of French government Charles de Gaulle in his speech in Bar-le-Duc (28 July 1946) evoking "the drama of the Thirty Years War we just won". De Gaulle viewed the First World War and the Second World War as a single conflict, the interwar period being a mere truce.[3] That was echoed, among others, by Sigmund Neumann in his book The Future in Perspective (1946).[4] In 1948, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave the idea a boost when, in the first paragraph of the preface to The Gathering Storm (1948), he wrote that his books would "cover an account of another Thirty Years War".[5] Major European conflicts during that period included the Balkan Wars (1912–13), World War I (1914–18), the Russian Civil War (1917–23), the Ukrainian–Soviet War (1917–21), the Polish–Soviet War (1919–21), the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and World War II (1939–45). In addition, the interwar period saw significant levels of civilian and labor conflict as well as colonial wars.

Though it is not "scholarly" in form, it is obviously based upon close acquaintance with the sources and keenly perceptive observation. Thus it is that rare combination of the scholarly study and readable synthesis that many strive for and few attain. In approaching his subject, Neumann regards the years since 1914 as another Thirty Years' War which has been accompanied at the same time by a revolution that is still going on. Likening World War I and the Versailles peace to a prologue, he interprets what followed as five acts of a Greek drama of approximately equal length: 1919–24, 1924–29, 1929–34, 1934–39 and 1939–45.[6]
—Lee, D. W. (December 1946). "Review of Sigmund Neumann's The future in perspective"


The thesis has been challenged and rejected by many historians, who see it as too simple an explanation for the complex series of events that occurred during the interwar period of 1918 to 1939.[2] In particular, some argue that, in describing the rise of the Nazis as an inevitable result of the treaty of Versailles, the "Second Thirty Years' War" thesis excuses Nazi rhetoric as being a defensive reaction to supposed British and French vindictiveness.[2] Rather, critics see World War II as a consequence of Hitler and the racist ideology of Nazism, and since Hitler's rise to power was contingent on the Great Depression, it cannot have been inevitable, nor can his support have been a direct reaction to Versailles.[2] The Second Thirty Years' War thesis is part of the larger debates over the causes of World War II and over the idea of a European Civil War.

See also


  1. Use of this term can be found in many sources. Some examples include "Naming World Wars" at GlobalSecurity.org, Anthony Shaw's The World in Conflict, 1914–1945 (2000) ISBN:978-1-57958-212-8, and many other sources.


  1. "HIST2013 Twentieth-century Europe, Part I: The European Civil War, 1914–1945". The University of Hong Kong. http://www.hku.hk/history/2013.html. "This period can be seen as a Thirty Years' War fought over the problem of Germany, beginning with the First World War, 1914–18, and climaxing with the total defeat of Germany at the end of the Second World War, 1939–45. Tensions between the Great Powers were exacerbated by new ideologies such as Fascism, Nazism and Communism, which appeared in Europe as part of a general crisis in Western Civilisation after the First World War." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Bell 1988, p. 35-48.
  3. Charles de Gaulle, Discours prononcé à Bar-le-Duc, 28 juillet 1946, http://mjp.univ-perp.fr/textes/degaulle28071946.htm
  4. Pons 2000, p. XII, Footnote 3.
  5. Churchill 1948, preface.
  6. Lee 1946, pp. 604–606.
  • Bell, P.M.H. (1988). "Ch. 3: The Case Against a Thirty Years War". The Origins of the Second World War in Europe. Harlow: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49112-6.