The state of Germany at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is difficult to describe except in biblical terms. Syria today might give us some idea. At least a third of the entire population seems to have perished, more in some areas. In 1631, Magdeburg on the Elbe, Otto the Great’s most-favoured city, had over 20,000 inhabitants; by 1649, it was 450, the rest having been mostly slaughtered in the streets. Even today, when German children sing their version of ‘Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home’, it’s not a house that’s on fire, but Pomerania.
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