The Thirty Year War (1618-1648) was a catastrophe. Both the town and university were suffering hunger and plague in equal measure, marauding and murdering soldiers decimated the population; citizens of the town and the university lost their fortunes; the silver treasures of the university were melted down, and the libraries were abducted.
During the final stage of the war Tübingen became the headquarters of the French. It took some time until the town and the university recovered from the devastation. The economic misery was accompanied by an intellectual narrowing. The formerly flourishing university (as distinguished in 1623 by Professor Wilhelm Schickard´s invention in the first mechanical calculator of the world) fell to the level of a moderate educational institution.
The professorships were held by individual families; free positions were commonly given to sons and sons-in-law. It is amazing that despite nepotism and despite the provincial situation influenced by confessionalism and absolutism of small state scholars with nationwide prominence like Rudolf Jakob Camerarius, the discoverer of the venereal nature of plants or Johann Georg Gmelin, explorer of Siberia, came to work at the university.
In the middle of the 18th century Duke Karl Eugen tried to help the university. But when the majority of Tübingen's professors defied his ideas for reforms, Karl Eugen founded the "Hohe Karlsschule" in Stuttgart, which Emperor Joseph awarded the status of university in 1781.
In Tübingen the number of students dropped to under 200, which meant an economical downfall for the town. Not only the professors made their livings from the students, but also innkeepers, landlords, eateries, bookbinders, dressmakers, butchers, shoemakers, scribes of registers and so forth. Perhaps only the death of the Duke and thus the abrogation of the competitor from Stuttgart in 1794 prevented Tübingen from the worst.