The Thirty Years War and the Fatherland


The word “fatherland” has been used in the German territories since the Early Modern period. “Fatherland” could refer to a hometown, a principality, or even the Holy Roman Empire itself. The experience of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) gave new urgency to the national discourse about “Germany,” both during the conflict and in retrospect. These discussions prompted elites to reevaluate “the fatherland concept” [Vaterlandsbegriff]. Baroque poems and pamphlets, such as those by Andreas Gryphius, dealt with the “fatherland.” In addition, the experience of war sometimes gave rise to the creation of a kind of “German” community of suffering in literary form. For most subjects, however, the point of reference was not the Holy Roman Empire or a German “fatherland” but rather the territory, the town, the church parish, the village in which they lived, as evidenced by personal accounts from this period.


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