Trauma Narratives of the English Civil War
Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores the psychological impact and aftereffects of the English Civil War. Its main points of focus are the expressions of personal as well as collective trauma caused by this intestine conflict and the intersections between these two areas of experience. In this context, the discussion places the ways in which war experiences were narrated in relation to wider conceptualizations of traumatic damage to the mind. The essay identifies and analyses evidence of (what modern psychology has called) shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in accounts of English Civil War battles and subsequently, and contends that the period saw an emerging awareness of the palliative effects of trauma narration as well as of limits to the expressibility of traumatic events. In addition, this essay argues that individual battle trauma as described in popular print was transposed onto the canvas that represented the national psyche and thereby integrated into broader narratives of collective cultural trauma. More generally, this essay contributes to our understanding of early modern war-related trauma in the context of seventeenth-century medical and cultural ideas of war-induced mental impairment and disability, as well as to our understanding of the war’s wider cultural impact.