The nineteenth century witnessed the birth of German nationalism and the unification of Germany as a powerful nation-state. In this era the reading public’s obsession with the most destructive and divisive war in its history—the Thirty Years’ War—resurrected old animosities and sparked a violent, century-long debate over the origins and aftermath of the war. The core of this bitter argument was a clash between Protestant and Catholic historians over the cultural criteria determining authentic German identity and the territorial and political form of the future German nation.
This groundbreaking study of modern Germany’s morbid fascination with the war explores the ideological uses of history writing, commemoration, and collective remembrance to show how the passionate argument over the “meaning” of the Thirty Years’ War shaped Germans' conception of their nation. The first book in the extensive literature on German history writing to examine how modern German historians reinterpreted a specific event to define national identity and legitimate political and ideological agendas, The Thirty Years’ War and German Memory in the Nineteenth Century is a bold intellectual history of the confluence of history writing, religion, culture, and politics in nineteenth-century Germany.