Edited By Geraldine Horan, Felicity Rash and Daniel Wildman
Egbert Klautke Perfidious Albion: Wilhelm Wundt’s Völkerpsychologie and Anti-English Propaganda
during World War I The beginning of World War I was accompanied by a ‘war of words’. Academics, journalists and writers gave countless speeches and published books, articles and pamphlets in order to boost public morale and contrib- ute to the war ef fort of their home countries. Even though much of this literature was written by eminent, internationally renowned scholars, it mostly fell below the accepted academic standards of the time. In the heated atmosphere of war, we may find some of the most respected scholars of the time, better known for their diligence, busily producing propaganda which aimed at denigrating the enemy nations and justifying their own country’s war ef forts. In this context it is not surprising to find the most eminent German psychologist, Wilhelm Wundt, in the forefront of those German professors who contributed to the ‘war of words’. For decades, Wundt had been a champion of ‘folk psychology’ (Völkerpsychologie) which attempted to provide a comprehensive study of the development of mankind from a psychological point of view.1 For the purpose of war propaganda, how- ever, Wundt’s approach to folk psychology was not particularly useful. Since, despite its name, it stressed the similarities of the mental develop- ment of humanity over long periods of time, it had little to say about the 1 The German term Völkerpsychologie is notoriously dif ficult to translate into English; it has been rendered as folk, ethnic, national, race, and social psychology. All these translations fail to capture entirely...
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