The Lion of the North by G A Henty

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The Thirty Years’ War was gloriously crazy. It kicked off with people getting chucked out of a window in Prague. Then Denmark, Sweden and France, one at a time, got stuck in … into what originated as a religious conflict in the Holy Roman Empire … but also involved Spain due to the Habsburg connection. Oh, and the Ottomans and the Poles also got involved. With it so far? This book covers the period during which Sweden, under Gustavus Adolphus, led the Protestants against the Austrians. It’s rather a pet topic of mine, because it reminds me of being in my second year at university, when hope was fairly high and weight was fairly low. Our Hero, however, is not Swedish but Scottish: he’s part of a Scottish brigade fighting as part of the Swedish army. Needless to say, he has lots of adventures, carries out various heroic deeds, and ends up marrying a German heiress. The book ends not at Lutzen, when Gustavus Adolphus was killed, but at Nordlingen, two years later, when the Swedish army was decisively defeated – although Sweden remained the leading power in the Baltic until the rise of Peter the Great’s Russia.

It’s the usual G A Henty tale of derring-do, but he makes the important point that the Thirty Years’ War tends to be neglected in the teaching of history in Britain. That’s quite understandable, given that the last six years of the Thirty Years’ War overlapped with the Civil War, but it was a crucial period in European history and one which probably deserves more attention than it gets. Having said which, I think I was the one and only person in my year at university who insisted on writing an essay on Sweden’s role in it, but I’m very strange like that. Actually, I’m very strange generally … but that’s rather beside the point …

2 thoughts on “The Lion of the North by G A Henty

  1. Dorian

    Ooh, that sounds like one I should check out. Thanks to Eric Flint and his “1632” alternate history series, I have a passing interest in the Thirty Years War, and a soft spot for Gustavus Adolphus. (And, come to that, his Scottish “legions”.)

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