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Catholicism and the Great War
Religion and Everyday Life in Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914–1922


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Part of Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare

  • Date Published: December 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108446020

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About the Authors
  • This transnational comparative history of Catholic everyday religion in Germany and Austria-Hungary during the Great War transforms our understanding of the war's cultural legacy. Challenging master narratives of secularization and modernism, Houlihan reveals that Catholics from the losing powers had personal and collective religious experiences that revise the decline-and-fall stories of church and state during wartime. Focusing on private theologies and lived religion, Houlihan explores how believers adjusted to industrial warfare. Giving voice to previously marginalized historical actors, including soldiers as well as women and children on the home front, he creates a family history of Catholic religion, supplementing studies of the clergy and bishops. His findings shed new light on the diversity of faith in this period and how specifically Catholic forms of belief and practice enabled people from the losing powers to cope with the war much more successfully than previous cultural histories have led us to believe.

    • Provides a new transnational and comparative history of religion during the Great War which revises standard cultural histories of secularization and artistic modernism
    • Contributes to debates about Catholic and European modernity, and to the broader history of twentieth-century Catholicism
    • Goes beyond the 'just war' rhetoric of bishops and clergy, focusing instead on the everyday voices of Catholic soldiers, women and children
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    • Co-Winner, 2015 Wiener Library Ernst Fraenkel Prize, The Wiener Library

    Reviews & endorsements

    'By framing his study as a cross-border examination - simultaneously reviewing the Catholic experience in Germany, where believers formed a 'suspect minority,' and in Austria-Hungary, whose Catholics represented a 'favored majority' - the author avoids the trap of being misled by country-specific features and can demonstrate that his findings reflect the transnational nature of a shared Catholicism in the two countries. Houlihan has conducted extensive research in the Austrian, German, and Vatican archives and displays an impressive command of the published literature.' Albert L. Brancato, Journal of Jesuit Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108446020
    • length: 301 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 150 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Catholicism on the eve of the Great War in Germany and Austria-Hungary
    2. Theology and catastrophe
    3. The limits of religious authority: military chaplaincy and the bounds of clericalism
    4. Faith in the trenches: Catholic battlefield piety during the Great War
    5. The unquiet home front
    6. A voice in the wilderness: the papacy
    7. Memory, mourning, and the Catholic way of war

  • Author

    Patrick J. Houlihan, University of Chicago
    Patrick J. Houlihan is Assistant Director of Student Preparation in the Career Advancement Office at the University of Chicago, where he also has taught in the History Department. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago in 2011 with a dissertation entitled, 'Clergy in the Trenches: Catholic Military Chaplains of Germany and Austria-Hungary during the First World War'. His research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the University of Chicago, the Fulbright Program, and the American Philosophical Society. Houlihan's other publications include peer-reviewed journal articles in Central European History and First World War Studies. He has presented papers at the American Historical Association, German Studies Association, and the American Catholic Historical Association. His invited lectures include the New York University Remarque Institute in Kandersteg, Switzerland and the Institute for Cultural Studies in Vienna. Among other venues, he has given papers at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City as well as the UK Chaplaincy Centre. He maintains scholarly interests in the classical and contemporary issues of religion and war, especially as seen through global and transnational history.


    • Co-Winner, 2015 Wiener Library Ernst Fraenkel Prize, The Wiener Library

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