“Books,” exclaimed one man to another, apropos of the bookcart’s arrival, “They’re all that hold reason together.”
As part of an exhibit on display at the Homer D. Babbidge Library at the University of Connecticut, doctoral student Mary Mahoney has written and curated an online exhibit about the use of literature as therapy for soldiers during the first World War, titled Books as Medicine: Studies in reading, its history, and the enduring belief in its power to heal.
Guided through sections, the site visitor learns about the (American) Library War Service, Hospital Libraries, Prescribing Books, Contagion (both medical and social), and Science (in which you can use a form from a neuropsychiatric hospital to ‘prescribe’ a book as therapy, and peruse others’ prescriptions).
The May 2017 issue of Social History of Medicine includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. The first piece explores cases of jealousy, madness, and murder in the context of admissions to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum; the second describes how two editions of shell shock films differently incorporated notions about class, gender and nation. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“‘I am not very well I feel nearly mad when I think of you’: Male Jealousy, Murder and Broadmoor in Late-Victorian Britain,” by Jade Shepherd. Abstract:
This article compares the representations of jealousy in popular culture, medical and legal literature, and in the trials and diagnoses of men who murdered or attempted to murder their wives or sweethearts before being found insane and committed into Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1864 and 1900. It is shown that jealousy was entrenched in Victorian culture, but marginalised in medical and legal discourse and in the courtroom until the end of the period, and was seemingly cast aside at Broadmoor. As well as providing a detailed examination of varied representations of male jealousy in late-Victorian Britain, the article contributes to understandings of the emotional lives of the working-class, and the causes and representations of working-class male madness.
One hundred years ago World War One set the course for the twentieth century; for the countries that took part nothing would be the same again. In this worldwide series of events with the British Council, we look at the impact of the war from around the world.
The third debate of the series comes from The Imperial War Museum in London as we explore the psychology of war. What drove men to volunteer for the war? What drove them to the edge of sanity when they got there?
Historian and broadcaster Amanda Vickery is joined by a panel of experts and a live audience to explore the mental impact of fighting the war at home and abroad. World War One experts Dan Todman (Queen Mary, University of London) and Michael Roper (University of Essex) are joined by the celebrated cultural historian, Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck, University of London), who presents her specially commissioned essay, Shell Shock and the Shock of Shells.
You can listen to this episode here and explore other episodes in the series here. You can also enrol in the Open University’s accompanying free online course, “World War 1: Trauma and Memory,” here.
Jones identifies Hurst’s provocative footage of disordered movement as having lasting historical impact on our comprehension of how shell shock presented itself and was understood by contemporaries of the first World War; he then asserts the film was a non-representative and highly mediated rendition of the condition as experienced by the soldiers in that context. Jones goes on to elucidate the skeptical response of other psychiatric professionals to Hurst’s methods and claims to unprecedented and outstanding therapeutic efficacy, for which Hurst provided little explanation or followup.
The June issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. The month’s Time Capsule section examines the work of British psychologist Charles S. Myers on shell shock during World War I. Historian of medicine and psychiatry Edgar Jones examines Myers efforts establish shell shock as a legitimate condition – and not mere malingering – and to treat those affected. As Jones described,
The first cases Myers described exhibited a range of perceptual abnormalities, such as loss of or impaired hearing, sight and sensation, along with other common physical symptoms, such as tremor, loss of balance, headache and fatigue. He concluded that these were psychological rather than physical casualties, and believed that the symptoms were overt manifestations of repressed trauma.
Along with William McDougall, another psychologist with a medical background, Myers argued that shell shock could be cured through cognitive and affective reintegration. The shell-shocked soldier, they thought, had attempted to manage a traumatic experience by repressing or splitting off any memory of a traumatic event. Symptoms, such as tremor or contracture, were the product of an unconscious process designed to maintain the dissociation. Myers and McDougall believed a patient could only be cured if his memory were revived and integrated within his consciousness, a process that might require a number of sessions.
The full article, Shell Shocked, can be read online here.
AHP readers may also be interested in a series of 5 films of World War I era soldiers suffering from shell shock posted online by the Wellcome Library (previously discussed on AHP here). The first of these is featured below.
The January 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are a number of articles that may be of interest to historians of psychology and related fields. A special issue devoted to recent developments in the intellectual history of medicine, the issue includes articles on sexual inversion, shell shock (right), koro as a culture-bound syndrome, and the rise of hypnosis in Germany, among other topics. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Recent Developments in the Intellectual History of Medicine: A Special Issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine,” by Chiara Beccalossi and Peter Cryle. An extract from this introduction to the special issue reads,
The history of medicine is probably best thought of as a wide range of different types of inquiry, rather than a single, well-defined field. It can involve, among other things, the history of institutions, technologies, and outstanding individuals. The articles gathered in this special issue are offered specifically as contributions to the intellectual history of medicine. Each shows, in its own way, how a particular disorder became conceptualized or how a particular set of difficulties was made into a topic of debate. Inquiry of this kind is not quite the same thing as a history of ideas—if by the latter one understands only the study of ideas as they traverse medical writing—since our concern is not with major ideas in the field of medicine, as such. One of our working assumptions is that intellectual history ought to be no grander an enterprise than social history at its most focused, or cultural history at its most closely bounded. We will simply examine ways of thinking that prevailed at given points in history, indicating the material consequences to which they gave rise. By seeking to articulate thought, writing, and professional practice, we are responding to the challenge Michel Foucault laid down for historians. But the histories offered here are not “Foucauldian” in the manner of histories that focus primarily on articulating epistemic “rupture” and unprecedented conceptual “invention.” The point of our contributions is to examine the contexts in which new kinds of thinking emerged gradually, and often unevenly. We seek, as Foucault did at his best, to highlight the circumstantial nature of thought and the intellectually productive nature of circumstance.
This special issue had its beginnings in a seminar series conducted in 2009 by the Center for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland…
The first of a planned series of introduced screenings on the subject of military healthcare, organised with The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London. The first programme will explore the connections between film and healthcare during the First World War. Admission is free.
Professor Edgar Jones, Professor of the History of Medicine and Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London: ‘War Neuroses’, Arthur Hurst’s pioneering film about the treatment of shell shock in the First World War’
Professor Christine Hallett, Professor of Nursing History, The School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester: ‘”Plucky Nurses”: First World War nurses and the containment of trauma’
Full details of the film viewing can be found here.