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E. Krimmer, P. A. Simpson, Enlightened War (Karen Hagemann)

Francia-Recensio 2012/2 Frühe Neuzeit – Revolution – Empire (1500–1815)


Elisabeth Krimmer, Patricia Anne Simpson (ed.), Enlightened War. German Theories and Cultures of Warfare from Frederick the Great to Clausewitz, Rochester (Camden House) 2011, 360 p. (Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture), ISBN 978-1-571-13495-0, GBP 50,00.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

Karen Hagemann, Chapel Hill

This volume by Elisabeth Krimmer, Professor of German at the University of California Davis, and Patricia Anne Simpson, Associate Professor of German Studies at Montana State University, traces the changes in the practice and conceptualization of warfare from the early Enlightenment to German Classicism and Romanticism. Its approach is firmly based in German Studies, only one of the twelve chapters is written by a historian, the other authors are all scholars of German culture and literature. Both editors are accredited experts of the period and the subject and have recently published monographs on the theme 1 . Their introduction describes the development of the practice of warfare from the early seventeenth to early nineteenth century. Referring to historian David Bell, they emphasize that the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were the »first total wars«, an »effort of enormous magnitude that required the mobilization of all civilian and military resources« (p. 5). For them, »the mass mobilization of soldiers and the devastating impact« of these wars on »civilians and soldiers alike, were similar to twentieth century warfare«. They also see significant ideological parallels, because these wars »represented the first manifestation of a war of extermination« (p. 6).

This position is based on Bell’s book »The First Total War. Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It« (2007), which caused an intensive discussion of the character of the wars between 1792 and 1815. Historians agree with Bell that the period after 1790 saw an astonishing transformation in the scope and intensity of warfare in Europe, but the concept of »total war« that he introduced for characterizing these transformations is contested. Many historians doubt that this twentieth-century concept is helping us to understand the complexity and the ambiguities of the period between 1792 and 1815. The editors ignore this debate and, like most of the authors, pay little attention to the new historical scholarship on German Central Europe in particular and Europe in general 2 . This scholarship already started to do in the last decade what the editors suggest: to place warfare more in the center of the analysis of the history and literature of the period, i. e. make it to a central category of analysis, and to emphasize the importance of culture, especially the culture of war 3 .

The editors underline that all twelve chapters of the volume proceed from the assumption that warfare and Enlightenment culture are interdependent, and that discourses and practices of war informed Enlightenment thought, which in turn exerted a legible influence on the practice of war. Because of this dialectic, they stress that, a variety of disciplines – literature, history, art history, philosophy, military theory, and gender studies – need to be included in the study of war culture. One important but often still ignored approach is for them »gender«. They stress, like other mostly historical studies before them, that »gender identity is at the center, not the margin, of the culture of war« and »responds to the discourse on war and nation« (p. 11) 4 .

In the field the editors stake out in their introduction – the discourse on war and the culture, the literature and philosophy of »Enlightened War« – the twelve essays of the volume indeed make very interesting contributions. Part I on »War and Enlightenment« focuses on the period between the Seven Year War (1756–63) and the Polish Revolution (1788–1792). Sara Eigen Figal and Johannes Birgfeld both explore the enlightened rhetoric of war. Figal studies the contemporary language of war and enmity and demonstrates how closely it was related to the construction of brothers and neighbors. Birgfeld analyses and historically contextualizes Daniel Jenisch’s extremely popular and widely read epos »Borussia« on the Seven Years War published in 1794. Part II explores the discourse on war in German Classicism and Romanticism. Its four essays focus on well-known authors of the time. The chapter by Felix Saure emphasizes the connections between the classical ideal of Bildung and the critique of contemporary military practices in the writing of Wilhelm von Humboldt, who criticizes the inhuman treatment of ordinary soldiers in standing armies, and demands military reform. Galili Shahar studies Heinrich von Kleist’s »Berliner Abendblätter« and his novel understanding of military law and violence. The essay by Elizabeth Krimmer explores the nexus between politics, aesthetics, and warfare by contextualizing Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s »Faust II« and comparing it with Fichte’s and Clausewitz’s writing on war. Finally, Patricia Anne Simpson traces the influence of military discourses and contemporary warfare in three fairy tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Part III is dedicated to the interrelation between »War and Gender«. Inge Stephan studies the writing of Therese Huber on terror and the French Revolution by analyzing her novel »Die Familie Seldorf« published 1795–1796. She demonstrates how domestic struggles and »gender wars« impact politics and warfare. Waltraud Maierhofer analyzes paintings by the Swiss-Austrian Neoclassical artist Angelika Kaufmann that depicted war heroism and shows how Kaufmann combined the cult of sensibility and male heroism in her paintings. Ute Frevert examines the concept of the citizen-soldier and its importance in discourses on and practices of general conscription in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany. She points to the conflicts and tensions between elevated discourses and concrete, usually much less heroic practices and argues that only toward the end of the nineteenth century did a growing acceptance of the military become the dominant paradigm. Part IV on »War and Theory« focuses on the debate on warfare in military theory and philosophy of the time. Davis Colclasure’s chapter on Immanuel Kant studies the philosopher’s position on war violence and justifiable reasons for war. Arndt Nibiesch and Wolf Kittler explore different aspects of Clausewitz’s military theory and their legacy. The volume is completed with a selected bibliography.

Even if the volume is not as interdisciplinary as the editors aim for, and it would indeed be desirable, it is a very useful contribution to our understanding of the thinking about warfare beyond the circles of military theorists during the late Enlightenment. It emphasizes the multiple presences of war in texts of diverse literary genres and their influence on the contemporary culture of war.

1 Elizabeth Krimmer, Representations of War in German Literature from 1800 to the Present, Cambridge 2010; Anne Patricia Simpson, The Erotics of War in German Romaniticism, Lewisburg, PA 2006.

2 On the state of research, see Karen Hagemann and Katherine Aaslestad (ed.), Collaboration, Resistance, and Reform. Experiences and Historiographies of the Napoleonic Wars in Central Europe, special issue of Central European History 39 (2006); Philip G. Dwyer, Alan Forrest (ed.), Napoleon and His Empire. Europe, 1804–1814, Basingstoke 2007.

3 See Johannes Kunisch, Herfried Münkler (ed.), Die Wiedergeburt des Krieges aus dem Geist der Revolution: Studien zum bellizistischen Diskurs des ausgehenden 18. und beginnenden 19. Jahrhunderts, Berlin 1999.

4 See, for example, Katherine Aaslestad et al., (ed.), Gender, War and the Nation in the Period of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars – European Perspectives, special issue of European History Quarterly 37 (2007).

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PSJ Metadata
Karen Hagemann
E. Krimmer, P. A. Simpson, Enlightened War (Karen Hagemann)
CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0
Frühe Neuzeit (1500-1789), Neuzeit / Neuere Geschichte (1789-1918)
Deutschland / Mitteleuropa allgemein
Ideen- und Geistesgeschichte, Militär- und Kriegsgeschichte
18. Jh., 19. Jh.
4011882-4 4003524-4 4073817-6
1700-1900
Deutschland (4011882-4), Aufklärung (4003524-4), Kriegführung (4073817-6)
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E. Krimmer, P. A. Simpson, Enlightened War (Karen Hagemann)
In: Francia-Recensio 2012/2 | Frühe Neuzeit - Revolution - Empire (1500-1815)
URL: http://www.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2012-2/FN/krimmer-simpson_hagemann
Veröffentlicht am: 20.07.2012 13:00
Zugriff vom: 17.10.2017 22:18
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