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Tim Skellett @Gurdur
, 15 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
There is an excellent Spanish movie, Alatriste, which opens with a map, and the caption, "When Spain ruled the world". And it's quite amazing; for a period of around 40 years, it really looked like Spain ruled the world. And for longer, it looked like Spain might rule forever
And somewhere around 1600 A.D., it looked like Spain would come to rule the world. It had THE best infantry in the world, the truly feared Spanish tercios. It had a huge, world-spanning empire. It had incredible wealth. And then it all went south, quickly, much by 1650 A.D.
Witticisms can be misleading, but sometimes it's true to say that every great strength hides a great weakness. Spain ruled a huge empire. Almost every single part would rebel. Spain had the world's best infantry - but b/c of aridity, meaning few horses in Spain, little cavalry.
But I want to discuss just a part of this, the Thirty Years' War, & even more specifically, what it meant for Prague, Bohemia & Moravia (the modern Czech Republic). Because Prague did not start recovering till 1989 from one battle in 1620, and that battle had effects for us all
But before we get to Prague, & in a roundabout way, Kafka; I invite you all now to consider, where are the Catch-22 Snowdens of yesterday, and where are the Ottomans? Why did the Ottoman Empire get stymied and slide into stagnation so quickly? I promise y'all, it's all connected
Battle of Lepanto, 1571, I hear you say, Great Siege of Malta, 1565, the Ottomans were stopped, by military means, before 1600. Oh BOLLOCKS, the Battle of Vienna in 1683, ffs, the Turks came near to taking Austria, & ensuring a later Adolf Hitler could've been an Ottoman subject
So the Ottomans were a bigger thing than many realise, so we discuss here how come they went down (spoiler: silver! + inflation). But onto something else at the same time: it's a wonderful thing that Spain did not triumph either, because this:
The Golden Age of Islam was already over by the time the Ottomans came on scene, destroyed by a particular strand of Islamist puritan fundamentalism & possibly too by shock of when the Mongols burnt Baghdad to the ground. But the Ottomans might have revivified a tolerant Islam
Perhaps it can be said the Spanish suffered from similar trauma; an Arab large-scale mere slaving-raid destroyed the Visigoth Spanish kingdom, & subjected a large part of Spain to a foreign tyranny; the Spanish over-reacted later, in eventual triumph, to become tyrants themselves
But just as Ottomans provoked rebellions against themselves, just as the Berbers & Arabs did in Spain, so too did the Spanish; and they were very heavy-handed in response. There are credible reports of their tercios drinking human blood in Holland, when they fought Dutch rebels
I do not want to put down Spanish here, nor Berbers, Arabs, or Ottomans. The Spanish & the Ottomans added much of value. But the Spanish empire was a very intolerant, repressive one; you can point to previous trauma as cause, but it's still no real mitigation.
But we get to to 1618, & the very first world-war, & it was global. The Thirty Years' War was only part of it, as too the English Civil War. 30~50% of Germans died between 1618 & 1648. It was also the downfall of Prague, & the birth of modernism...
The Thirty Years' War saw
- the birth of the modern industrial army, little place for individual heroics;
- the births of the newspaper, modern agitprop & yellow-press;
- a French Catholic Pope defending Dutch & German Protestants against expansionist Spanish & Bavarian Catholics
& the 30 Yrs War & very shortly after also saw:
- destruction of the then world's best infantry, & with that the death of Spain's hopes
- the rise of France (which had come very close to total disintergration)
- the exile of Prague from the West to the poor, authoritarian East
But since I have tweeted too many words for now, I will continue later on this subject on another day.
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