30YW Participants timechart

An inevitable challenge for historians is how to mix narrative with analysis in their courses. I teach an upper-level undergrad course on European Warfare 1337-1815, and it’s no surprise that when you cover an entire war in 2-3 hours of classtime, it’s hard to ensure that students understand both the narrative (how the events unfolded) as well as why the events unfolded the way they did, and what these events teach us about the warfare of the period. This can be particularly difficult for many early modern wars, where a dozen or more combatants might be involved at different times, and even switch sides on occasion. The 30YW is particularly difficult in this regard. Geoffrey Parker’s Thirty Years War book attempts to address this by including a chart of participants by year (p. 138). I created my own, pimped-out version, taking advantage of color.

Note that this type of chart allows you to:

  • see at a glance what periods have the most wars
  • see at a glance the geographical spread of wars
  • trace one country’s pattern of war and peace (follow column down)
  • trace one year’s pattern of war and peace (follow row across)
  • quickly look up the state of war and peace in any given year for any given country
  • distinguish when participants join or leave a coalition (e.g. Saxony in 1619)

Let me know your thoughts on this type of chart: if there are any mistakes in this one, and if you have any suggestions for improvement.

Timechart illustrating combatants by year and their opponents

Here is the symbol key.



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2 responses to “30YW Participants timechart”

  1. Wienand Drenth says :

    Yes, such charts are extremely useful, and tells more than thousand words. With what sort of software did you make it? It looks like a lot of work.

    • jostwald says :

      Adobe Illustrator is the software. And yes, it does take a long time, but that is a function of there being few sources that bother providing consistent details – if you want to see how patchy narrative history is, try creating a similar timeline/chart based off of a single ‘definitive’ history. You’ll quickly see all the gaps they can leave out without the reader noticing. I was really frustrated developing my siege database for Vauban under Siege for the same reason. Oddly enough, Wikipedia is the only source to provide factual summary info in a similar format.

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