Tag Archives: WWI

Mediating Shell Shock: The 1918 Film ‘War Neuroses’ as Clinical Controversy

sgt-bissettBPS’ May volume of The Psychologist includes an insightful historical piece by Edgar Jones (out of the Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College London). His article, Filming Trauma, assesses the influence and controversy in Britain surrounding the clinical research of Arthur Hurst on treatment of shell shock as a medical emergency within their military forces.

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.

An engaging read! Find it as pdf, or post.

New APA Monitor: Charles S. Myers & Shell Shock

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.

New Issue: History of Medicine & Allied Sciences

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…

“Female Same-sex Desires: Conceptualizing a Disease in Competing Medical Fields in Nineteenth-century Europe,” by Chiara Beccalossi. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of Medicine & Allied Sciences

Film Viewing: Psychological Trauma & WWI

For any of AHP‘s readers who will be in London on March 9th, the Imperial War Museum London is hosting a film screening Psychological and Physical Trauma in the First World War: Exploring the History of Healthcare through Films. The screening will be accompanied by two talks on psychological trauma of soldiers in WWI. Open to the public, the event will take place from 3:30 to 5:45 in the IWM Cinema. As described on the Imperial War Museum London website,

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.