Ghosts of War and Spirits of Place
: Spectral Belief in Early Modern England and Protestant Germany

  • Aidan Anthony O Lynn

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis focuses on themes of place and war in the development of ghostlore in Early Modern Protestant Germany and England. It reconstructs an enchanted world, one where ghosts and spirits were not tied down to simple Catholic or Protestant tropes but were more multifaceted than previous studies have shown. Stressing continuities between the medieval period and what followed, it shows how ghosts continued to embody anxieties of place, experience and morality. Emphasising the importance of place within legend telling and ghost stories, it recreates a landscape of memory whose bounds, both physical and moral, were patrolled by spirits. Looking at war, we see how the intense experience of conflict and its aftermath were negotiated through spirit tropes, how these lessons were applied to wider society’s morality and how war was a catalyst for ghost belief.
It shows how Protestants, like Catholics before them, had attempted to appropriate and impose order upon these spirits, places and experiences. It shows how Protestantism not only competed with Catholic teachings on spirits but also confronted more atavistic models of spirit belief with varying degrees of success. A key current throughout the thesis is whereas theologians argued an overarching theory of the supernatural, popular belief, on the other hand, was held in bundle form. Therefore, it justifies a closer look at how spirits operated in certain environments and experiences.
This thesis complements existing English studies on spirits and introduces a German ghostlore largely unknown to the British reader. By a deep reading of contemporary ghost stories, set in the place and describing the experience of haunting, we can see the relevance these tales embodied in the moralities they contained, the bounds they set and the proofs they encapsulated.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRonald E Hutton (Supervisor)

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