Tag Archives: World War One

Shell Shock in New Zealand


 
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,

The Construction of Shell Shock in New Zealand, 1919–1939: A Reassessment,” by Gwen A. Parsons. The abstract reads,

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.

Shell Shock Films & Mentally Ill Smokers

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.

“Scientific Research and Corporate Influence: Smoking, Mental Illness, and the Tobacco Industry,” by Laura Hirschbein. The abstract reads, Continue reading Shell Shock Films & Mentally Ill Smokers

The History of “Soldier’s Heart” in JHMAS

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.