A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century

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Harvard University Press, Mar 1, 2003 - History - 487 pages
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A War of Nerves is a history of military psychiatry in the twentieth century--an authoritative, accessible account drawing on a vast range of diaries, interviews, medical papers, and official records, from doctors as well as ordinary soldiers. It reaches back to the moment when the technologies of modern warfare and the disciplines of psychological medicine first confronted each other on the Western Front, and traces their uneasy relationship through the eras of shell-shock, combat fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At once absorbing historical narrative and intellectual detective story, A War of Nerves weaves together the literary, medical, and military lore to give us a fascinating history of war neuroses and their treatment, from the World Wars through Vietnam and up to the Gulf War. In so doing, he answers recurring questions about the effects of war. Why do some men crack and others not? Are the limits of resistance determined by character, heredity, upbringing, ideology, or simple biochemistry?

Military psychiatry has long been shrouded in misconception, and haunted by the competing demands of battle and of recovery. Now, for the first time, we have a definitive history of this vital art and science, which illuminates the bumpy efforts to understand the ravages of war on the human mind, and points towards the true lessons to be learned from treating the aftermath of war.

  

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Contents

Doctors Minds
5
ShellShock in France
21
Trench Work
33
The Somme
39
Psychiatry at the Front 191718
53
Home Fires
73
Europeans
97
Arguments and Enigmas 191718
109
DDay and After
247
A Tale of Two Hospitals
257
The Helmeted Airman
279
Learning from the Germans?
299
Prisoners of War
313
A Good War?
325
Vietnam Doctors
339
From PostVietnam Syndrome to PostTraumatic Stress Disorder
355

Skirting the Edges of Hell
123
Inquests
133
Will Peace Bring Peace?
143
The Lessons of ShellShock
161
Dunkirk the Blitz and the Blue
169
We Can Save those Boys from Horror
187
Frontline Psychiatry
205
New Ways of War
229
When the Patient Reports Atrocities
369
From the Falklands to the Gulf
377
The Culture of Trauma
385
Notes
401
Select Bibliography
469
Index
475
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Ben Shephard writes widely on psychiatry and its history. He was a producer on Thames Television's The World at War.

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