Maternal Martyrdom Unmasked: British Fatherhood and the Masculinization of War in Napoleonic Veterans’ Tales of Infant Suffering

Previously posted at:

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
Despite the growing masculinization of Europe’s armies, domestic ideals such as maternal breastfeeding and nurturing fatherhood appeared with surprising frequency in British accounts of the Napoleonic Wars. Veterans’ memoirs of the British Army’s retreat to Corunna recalled heartrending scenes of dead mothers with infants struggling to nurse at frozen breasts. Pacifist poets had eagerly seized similar stories to demonstrate the horrors of war, but this article shows the way in which mother and infant suffering could become a pro-war tool used by the Army. Officer memoirists subtly condemned Army wives for following the drum while highlighting their own fatherly compassion.