Germany's Northern Challenge

The Holy Roman Empire and the Scandinavian Struggle for the Baltic 1563-1576


Shortly after the Augsburg peace settlement of 1555, from 1563 to 1576, the Holy Roman Empire was threatened by the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden. This book examines the empire’s reaction to a foreign crisis, the Seven Years’ War of the North, and the connections between foreign policy and internal imperial politics. As this study will show, and contrary to most assumptions, the empire, through its confederal structure, was able to provide effective means for defending the domestic order against external dangers. Further, the empire could conduct a common foreign policy to protect common interests. This study highlights the empire’s internal organization and politics by introducing two new concepts: initiative and consensus. Initiative was possible on the basis of consensus, but as this study reveals, there were two specific limits on building consensus. First, the empire’s polities could only support a common approach if they had common aims. Second, a united approach to an outside crisis had to foster the preservation of internal stability. Motivated by German commerce in the Baltic, the empire was persistent in trying to achieve peace in that region. The empire was not alone in its interest in the Scandinavian conflict, which threatened no less than the economic well-being of western Europe.


EUR €130.00USD $161.00

Biographical Note

Jason Lavery, Ph.D. (1997) in History, Yale University, is Assistant Professor of History at Oklahoma State University. He has published articles on sixteenth-century German and Scandinavian history.

Review Quotes

"This is a most valuable study that illuminates important aspects of imperial politics in the second half of the sixteenth century. It should serve to undermine any view of the Reich after 1555 as a helplessly divided and barely pacified wreck. On the contrary, in Lavery's pages we see an eminently viable statelike system capable of effective defensive action and peaceful survival at a time when much of Western Europe was riven by civil war and religious conflict." Joachim Whaley, Sixteenth Century Journal, 2004. "…the book is a richly documented archival study, based on an impressive array of primary source in Lübeck, Rostock, Gdańsk, Munich, Bamberg, Berlin, Marburg, Cologne, Wolfenbüttel, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Dresden, Stralsund, and Greifswald. Four maps, five genealogical tables, a chronology, and an index grace this volume." Marsha Frey, American Historical Review, 2004. "Lavery should be read by all historians of imperial, Scandinavian, and Baltic early modern politics, for he proves the importance of connections among these areas long before Gustavus Adolphus landed upon the shores of Pomerania." Erik Thomson, Austrian History Yearbook 36, 2005.