in Books for Boys: Literacy, Nation and the First World War, ed. Simon James, Durham (Durham Institute for Advanced Study) 2014, pp. 20-25.
Stories and novellas based upon the experiences of pupils at the Royal Prussian Cadet-Schools (Königlich Preußische Kadettenanstalten), which trained boys from the age of ten to take up a career in the Prussian Officer-Corps, were a publishing phenomenon in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Germany.
Largely written by former cadets, these works, such as Paul von Szczepanski’s Spartanerjünglinge (Spartan Youths) and Johannes van Dewall’s Kadettengeschichten (Cadet-Tales), were serialised, published in multiple editions, and even hailed in the Reichstag, the German parliament, as ‘famous novellas’ and ‘best-beloved treatments of cadet-school life’.
This short essay investigates this little-known genre of German children’s literature, exploring the ways in which patriotic feeling and the prospect of a martial career were justified or glorified in these volumes, and suggesting that they might have contributed to boys’ commitment to militarism and self-sacrifice prior to and during World War I.
The article forms part of a general-interest volume published to accompany an exhibition organised by Durham University’s Palace Green Library, entitled ‘Books for Boys: Heroism, Adventure and Empire at the Dawn of the First World War’, the first in a series of exhibitions linked to the national centenary commemoration of the First World War.