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This is about the term and historiography. For history of the period see World War I, World War II, etc..

The "Second Thirty Years' War" is a periodization scheme sometimes used to encompass the wars in Europe from 1914 to 1945.[a]

Second Thirty Years' War
Part of European Civil War
Date28 July 1914 – 2 September 1945 (1914-07-28 – 1945-09-02)

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 new ideologies such as communism, fascism, and Nazism.[1]

The thesis of the Second Thirty Years' War is that WWI naturally led to WWII, the former was the inevitable cause of the later and thus they can be seen as a single conflict.[2] Indeed policies that originated in the Bismarck era created an inevitable outcome.[2] 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 this period.[2] They see WWII as a consequence of Hitler, whose rise to power was contingent on the Great Depression and thus not inevitable.[2] The Second Thirty Years' War thesis is part of the larger debates over the causes of World War II and a European Civil War.

Concept's originsEdit

The concept of a "Second Thirty Years War" originated in 1946 with former head of French Government Charles de Gaulle speech in Bar-le-Duc (28 July 1946) evoking "the drama of the thirty years war, we just won", for him the First World War and the Second World War were a single conflict, the interwar period being just a mere truce.[3] It 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 says his books will "cover an account of another Thirty Years War".[5]

As point in fact, major European conflicts during this period included: Balkan Wars (1912–13), World War I (1914–18), Russian Civil War (1917–23), Ukrainian–Soviet War (1917–21), Polish–Soviet War (1919–21), 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"

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Use of this term can be found in many sources. Some examples include "Naming World Wars" at, 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. Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. 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. ^ a b c d Bell 1988, p. 35-48.
  3. ^ Charles de Gaulle, Discours prononcé à Bar-le-Duc, 28 juillet 1946,
  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.