The Thirty Years’ War strengthened France, weakened Spain, broke up the Hapsburg combine, and made the Holy Roman Empire little more than a name. But its chief effect was the ruin of Germany by a generation of violence. The losses were immense, even taking into account later exaggeration and the claims of propaganda- a legend grew up that Germany lost three quarters of its population, although it was probably closer to one third, still catastrophic. Whole regions lay desolated. For three decades, as in Callot’s etchings, villages had been burned, women carried off, sons conscripted, crops destroyed, and livestock stolen by the marauding armies. In their train came famine and disease. It is no wonder that in 1628 a peasant wrote in his daybook: “God send that there may be an end at last; God send that there may be peace again. God in heaven send us peace.”
(see link at end)… To focus exclusively on violence as a general negative term in relation to the experience of war during the seventeenth century is to neglect its cultural and historical import in the early modern period. The spectrum of violence depicted by Callot does not provide an easy moral judgment against it but instead reveals the problematic and often contradictory discourses that enabled wartime violence, toward civilians and soldiers alike. What is truly remarkable about these depictions is not their so-called realism or fidelity to a historical moment but rather the extent to which they confound the slippery divide between people who enact wartime violence and those who suffer from it.
The fact that the protagonists of the series, the soldiers, are depicted as both abhorrent and noble poses a particularly difficult interpretive problem. Since these main characters are presented as neither completely evil nor virtuous, scholars have characterized the Misères as “ambivalent” or “impartial” and have likewise praised it as faithfully representing “human experience” . The work has most often been used as an indexical illustration by countless historians writing about the harsh tactics employed by soldiers upon civilian populations in the early modern period. This interpretation uncritically assumes that Callot’s images offer up a form of documentary access to the stark reality of the Thirty Years War and, in doing so, neglects the mediating factors intrinsic to the process of creating representations. Read More:http://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bulletinfront/0054307.0016.102?rgn=main;view=fulltext