The Treaty of Westphalia is signed, ending the Thirty Years War and radically shifting the balance of power in Europe. The Thirty Years War, a series of wars fought by various European nations for various reasons, ignited in 1618 over an attempt by the king of Bohemia (the future Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II) to impose Catholicism throughout his domains. Protestant nobles rebelled, and by the 1630s most of continental Europe was at war.
As a result of the Treaty of Westphalia, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, Sweden gained control of the Baltic, independence of the Netherlands from Spain was fully recognised, and France was acknowledged as the pre-eminent Western power. The war had devastated Europe, particularly Germany, where unpaid armies of mercenaries plundered and ravaged cities, towns and farms.