‘Nerves’ enjoyed a central place in German debates about war at the beginning of the 20th Century. Politicians, scientists, the public, and the military discussed the extent to which a future war would strain the nerves of German society. Concepts of ´strength of nerves´ as well as of ´weakness of nerves´ were increasingly used as combat terms during the First World War. The massive scale of experiences of psychological injuries and suffering only added to this phenomenon. The social and political administration of the medical treatment of psychological war disabilities presided over post-war discourses of managing the consequences of war. Simultaneously, a new spiritual mobilization for war followed in the Weimar Republic, which, after 1933, ‘synchronized’ almost all aspects of social life in the Third Reich.
Current scholarship has devoted substantial historical research to the treatment and accommodation of psychological war-disabled veterans. This conference focuses on contemporary discourses on nerves in politics, society, science, and the military and aspires to elaborate the interaction as well as their practical consequences of these discourses for the period of 1900 and 1933. At this conference nerves are understood as a code and a construct that are central in negotiating identity. Both, contemporary discourses on nerves as well as individual and collective experiences of psychological mobilization and suffering will be presented and analyzed. The focus of the conference papers is on Germany, but in a wider European context.
Venue: Freie Universität Berlin, Fabeckstraße 23-25, 14195 Berlin, Room: 2.2059
Many of those involved in the war, on both sides of the Atlantic, were pupils of Wundt. Indeed, the academic discipline of psychology in 1914 was itself essentially a German invention. Frederic Bartlett later recalled that the course taught at Cambridge before the war ‘was Germans, Germans all the way, and if we were going to stick to psychology then to Germany sooner or later we must all surely go’. Bartlett never went to Germany himself, but nearly everyone else did; many had fond memories of the ‘unstinted kindness and precious friendship’ of very many Germans and found it uncomfortable to be at war with them. Amongst the conflict-driven dreams Rivers recorded at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917 was one in which he found himself back in the Heidelberg laboratory where he had worked two decades before. But divided loyalties were most powerfully played out at Harvard, where Hugo Münsterberg, the pioneer of applied psychology and a deeply patriotic German, found himself surrounded by anglophile New Englanders. Instead of returning to Germany, Münsterberg stood his ground but the strain took its toll, and in December 1916, while lecturing at Barnard College, he collapsed, fell from the podium and died.
‘Stories of Psychology’ Symposium
War and Its Legacy
The fourth annual history of psychology symposium
Wednesday 8 October 2014 at the Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
10.30am-4pm (including buffet lunch)
Convened by Dr Alan Collins (Lancaster University)
This year’s symposium is part of the British Psychological Society’s planned series of events to mark the centenary of the First World War.
The First World War came at a time when psychology was still only beginning to emerge as an academic discipline and psychological organisations were in their infancy, particularly in Britain. After the War things started to look very different very quickly. So what impact did the War have on the development of psychological ideas and practice? Our speakers will attempt to provide some answers.
Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes (Anglia Ruskin University, and BPS President Elect)
‘From Myers to the MoD: 99 Years of British Military Psychology’
Professor Edgar Jones (Institute of Psychiatry)
‘Shell Shock: The First World War and the Origins of Psychological Medicine’
Professor Michael Roper (University of Essex)
‘Growing Up in the Aftermath: Childhood and Family Relationships Between the Wars’
Professor Sonu Shamdasani (University College London)
‘C.G Jung, 1914-1918: From the Great War to the War Within’
Andrea von Hohenthal (University of Freiburg, Germany) will make a short presentation of initial findings from her doctoral research on the development of psychology in Britain and Germany during the Great War.
This is a public event and all are welcome. The programme has been designed to have general appeal as well as academic validity for historians of psychology.
“German Battle Casualties: The Treatment of Functional Somatic Disorders during World War I,” by Stefanie Caroline Linden and Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,
World War I witnessed the admission of large numbers of German soldiers with neurological symptoms for which there was no obvious organic cause. This posed a considerable challenge for the military and medical authorities and resulted in an active discussion on the etiology and treatment of these disorders. Current historiography is reliant on published physician accounts, and this represents the first study of treatment approaches based on original case notes. We analyzed patient records from two leading departments of academic psychiatry in Germany, those at Berlin and Jena, in conjunction with the contemporaneous medical literature. Treatment, which can be broadly classified into reward and punishment, suggestion, affective shock, cognitive learning, and physiological methods, was developed in the context of the emerging fields of animal learning and neurophysiology. A further innovative feature was the use of quantitative methods to assess outcomes. These measures showed good response rates, though most cured patients were not sent back to battle because of their presumed psychopathic constitution. While some treatments appear unnecessarily harsh from today’s perspective and were also criticized by leading psychiatrists of the time, the concentration of effort and involvement of so many senior doctors led to the development of psychotherapeutic methods that were to influence the field of psychiatric therapy for decades to come.
An article in the just released February issue of Social History of Medicine may be of interest to some AHP readers. In “The Construction of Shell Shock in New Zealand, 1919–1939: A Reassessment” Gwen Parsons explores different accounts of shell shock provided by the army and the medical community during and immediately after World War One. Full article details follows below,
This article explores the competing constructions of shell shock in New Zealand during and after the Great War. It begins by considering the army’s construction of shell shock as a discipline problem, before going on to consider the medical profession’s attempts to place it within a somatic and then psychogenic paradigm. While shell shock was initially viewed as a psychogenic condition in New Zealand, within a few years of the end of the war it had become increasingly subject to medical understandings of the psychiatric profession, who dominated the treatment of the mentally ill. It is the psychiatric understanding of shell shock which generally defined the treatment of shell shocked veterans within New Zealand after the war. In addition, this medical definition shaped but did not entirely define the government’s repatriation response to shell shocked soldiers. In a number of cases the government saw its responsibility to shell shocked soldiers as going beyond the limits of the psychiatric paradigm, and it responded positively to the veteran lobbying for extensions to the repatriation provisions for shell shocked soldiers. This article concludes by considering why the treatment of New Zealand’s shell shocked soldiers has generally been viewed so negatively within the national historiography.
The July 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are two articles that tackle the history of mental health. The first article describes the work of Arthur Hurst who filmed soldiers suffering from shell shock post World War I. Further films by Hurst were used to convey the message that these soldiers could be “cured” with relative ease. The second mental health related article in this issue explores the relationship between mentally ill smokers and the tobacco industry, including efforts to cast smoking as an activity with positive effects for the mentally ill. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“War Neuroses and Arthur Hurst: A Pioneering Medical Film about the Treatment of Psychiatric Battle Casualties,” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,
From 1917 to 1918, Major Arthur Hurst filmed shell-shocked patients home from the war in France. Funded by the Medical Research Committee, and using Pathé cameramen, he recorded soldiers who suffered from intractable movement disorders as they underwent treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley and undertook programs of occupational therapy at Seale Hayne in Devon. As one of the earliest UK medical films, Hurst’s efforts may have drawn inspiration from the official documentary of the Battle of the Somme and films made in 1916 by French Army neurologists. Although initially motivated to make use of a novel medium to illustrate lectures, Hurst was alert to the wider appeal of the motion picture and saw an opportunity to position himself in the postwar medical hierarchy. Some “before treatment” shots were reenacted for the camera. Hurst, like some other shell shock doctors, openly used deception as a therapeutic measure. On the basis that the ends justified the means, they defended this procedure as ethical. Clinicians also took advantage of changes in military regulations to address functional symptoms. Claims made of “cures” in the film and associated publications by Hurst were challenged by other doctors treating shell shock. The absence of follow-up data and evidence from war pension files suggested that Hurst may have overstated the effectiveness of his methods. Nevertheless, the message conveyed in the film that chronic cases could be treated in a single session had a powerful resonance for ambitious or charismatic doctors and was revived in World War II.
The April 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue is an article that may be of interest to AHP’s readers. In “The Chief Seat of Mischief: Soldier’s Heart in the First World War” Sean Dyde explores the fate of “soldier’s heart” a medical-psychological diagnosis assigned from the American Civil War through to the period just following the First World War. Appearing as a variety of heart-related symptoms, soldier’s heart was held by physicians in the twentieth century to be psychosomatic until experimental results showed otherwise. Title, author, and abstract follow below.
“The Chief Seat of Mischief: Soldier’s Heart in the First World War,” by Sean Dyde. The abstract reads,
Soldier’s heart was a medico-psychiatric condition that was first documented during the American Civil War. This condition affected British and American soldiers during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries; doctors recorded patients experiencing palpitations, breathlessness, headaches, and praecordial pain among other symptoms. While the number of cases of this disorder reached its peak in the First World War, it disappeared shortly afterwards. Based on an analysis of experimental results published in generalist and specialized medical journals as well as the correspondence between physicians and researchers that these journals maintained, this study challenges the view that soldier’s heart disappeared because doctors realized that the disorder was, in fact, psychosomatic. Instead, this article shows that this notion was an unintentional by-product of the research conducted into the condition, the results of which opposed the somaticist philosophy that many of the researchers had tried to uphold.