Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Lederer, D
German History
The Myth of the All-Destructive War: Afterthoughts on German Suffering, 1618-1648
4 ()
Optional Fields
Like perhaps no other military struggle in German history, the Thirty Years War exemplifies a conflagration largely defined by immense suffering. It offers an optimal testcase for the analysis of suffering as an emotional category by historians. In the twentieth century, some (such as Dame C.V. Wedgewood or the SS officer Gunther Franz) employed a political frame of reference to more recent events in German history. One of the inadequacies of this interpretative framework is its tendency to moralize and over-simplify the roles of victims and perpetrators. In fact, we now recognize that most suffering during the Thirty Years War related only indirectly to military conflict, resulting instead from economic disaster, famine and disease. As a direct outcome of the war, rape poignantly illustrates methodological difficulties facing historians of suffering, given the patriarchal character of seventeenth-century society. The present historiography overcomes a variety of obstacles through micro-historic methods employing so-called ego-documents and Selbstzeugnisse. Theoretically, William Reddy's exploration of hyperbolic sentimentality during the French Revolution may offer us a better analytical framework for understanding suffering during the Thirty Years War. In our case, a hyperbolic sensitivity to suffering shared by victims and non-victims alike contributed to the cessation of hostilities at Munster/Osnabruck and enshrined principles of sovereignty and religious tolerance in the Western political vocabulary. Thus elevated, the mechanisms of emotional suffering assume a central explanatory role in our understanding of the Thirty Years War.
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