Chapter 2 Enlightenment Dilemmas: Nationalism and War in Rudolph Zacharias Becker’s Mildheimisches Liederbuch (1799/1815)

In: Nationalism before the Nation State
Author: Ellen Pilsworth

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This chapter explores the moral dilemmas encountered by the Enlightenment writer and pedagaogue Rudolph Zacharias Becker around the concepts of nationalism and war. His meticulous selection and adaptation of texts for the two editions of his Mildheimisches Liederbuch (an originally pedagogical work designed to teach peasants more Enlightened ways of thinking) reveal the issues of war and nationalism to have been greatly troubling for him, yet also, unfortunately, unavoidable. While the first edition of Mildheimisches Liederbuch in 1799 treated war as a moral problem, the second edition in 1815 contained a great many new songs proclaiming the anti-French and pro-war sentiments that had arisen during the Wars of Liberation, even though his personal memoir from this period argued for tolerance and respect of the French. Why, then, did he include this anti-French material in the 1815 collection? I interpret Becker’s choice to include pro-war texts with which he did not agree as an attempt to respect freedom of different political opinions, rather than to censor and control them, in the aftermath of Napoleonic occupation.

Nationalism before the Nation State

Literary Constructions of Inclusion, Exclusion, and Self-Definition (1756–1871)



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