The term trauma refers to a wound or rupture that disorients, causing suffering and fear. Trauma theory has been heavily shaped by responses to modern catastrophes, and as such trauma is often seen as inherently linked to modernity. Yet psychological and cultural trauma as a result of distressing or disturbing experiences is a human phenomenon that has been recorded across time and cultures.
The long seventeenth century (1598–1715) has been described as a period of almost continuous warfare, and the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries saw the development of modern slavery, colonialism, and nationalism, and witnessed plagues, floods, and significant sociopolitical, economic, and religious transformation. In Early Modern Trauma editors Erin Peters and Cynthia Richards present a variety of ways early modern contemporaries understood and narrated their experiences. Studying accounts left by those who experienced extreme events increases our understanding of the contexts in which traumatic experiences have been constructed and interpreted over time and broadens our understanding of trauma theory beyond the contemporary Euro-American context while giving invaluable insights into some of the most pressing issues of today.