I just finished British historian C. V. Wedgwood's classic history of the Thirty Years War. The war was fought from 1618 to 1648. the book was published in 1938, in a Europe that was heading for war. It is not too much, I think, to claim that he book is a classic of the narrative historian's art. Dame Veronica (she went by her middle name) was a great-great-great-granddaughter of the famous potter. Although she was very successful academically at Oxford, she eschewed the donnish life to be a writer of narrative history and what at the time was thought to be popular history. This is so because it is written in a lively style and is actually both comprehensible and interesting to the average, educated reader. Her book was also the result of significant research in three languages, and after over 70 years is still regarded as the standard work in its field.
Her book begins (p. 8) with this pithy observation about the men in charge in the part of early 17th century Europe that is now Germany:
“The dismal course of the conflict, dragging on from one decade to the next and from one deadlock to the next, seems to me an object lesson on the dangers and disasters which can arise when men of narrow hearts and little minds are in high places.”
She concludes (p. 506) with this sad summation:
“After the expenditure of so much human life to so little purpose, men might have grasped the essential futility of putting the beliefs of the mind to the judgment of the sword. Instead, they rejected religion as an object to fight for and found others ... .
“The war solved no problem. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its causes, devious in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding example in European history of meaningless conflict ... .
"They wanted peace and they fought for thirty years to be sure of it. They did not learn then, and have not since, that war breeds only war.”
Here is the obituary from the NYTimes. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/11/arts/c-v-wedgwood-86-storyteller-of-history.html
Here is a photo of Dame Veronica