From War-Hero to Villain: Reversal of the Symbolic Value of War and a Warrior King

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Moerk, Ernst L. (1998) From War-Hero to Villain: Reversal of the Symbolic Value of War and a Warrior King , Journal of Peace Research 35(4): 453–469.

Parallels are demonstrated between changes in Swedish attitudes toward peace and war, reflected in the image of the 'war-hero', Karl XII, and the increasing peacefulness of Swedish society. The value changes are documented through analyses of four literary works: those of Geijer and Tegner, who glorified Karl XII as 'war-hero', and Heidenstam and Strindberg, who described the same Karl XII as a psychopath and villain and as a scourge for his country. As Geijer and Tegner wrote at the beginning of the 19th century, whereas Heidenstam and Strindberg produced their works at the end of it, the value changes occurring during this century can be demonstrated in these literary works. Relations between changed mentalities, as reflected in the literary works, and political decisions are explored. Finally, as a resulting implication, the potential impact of critical attitudes of the electorate on a leader's election and on his license for engaging in impulsive wars is discussed.

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