Surviving Crisis: The Napoleonic Upheavals and the ‘Time of the French’ as Cultural Trauma in Prussia, 1806–1812
War & Society, Dec 2021
Historians have dismantled the myth of the Wars of Liberation as a general, nationalist uprising of the German people against French invaders. Nevertheless, analyses still focus on a connection between a bellicose nationalism and the ‘positive’ emotions of military victory. This article shifts the focus toward the preceding military defeat, occupation, and catastrophe in Prussia. The theory of cultural trauma provides a means of uncovering the very real emotion of fear that drove debate within the public, military, and political spheres. Examining two main groups, nationalists and conservatives, this article argues that each group experienced defeat and occupation as a cultural trauma, but drew different lessons from the past and contrasting visions of the future to overcome trauma — though unexpectedly, military victory did not erase the trauma. This analysis has wider significance for the history of emotions and specifically for the study of the intersection of nationalism and emotion.