Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War

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"Although the shell-shocked British soldier of World War I has been a favoured subject in both fiction and nonfiction, focus has been on the stories of officers, and the history of the thousands of rank-and-file servicemen who were psychiatric casualties, and put into lunatic asylums, has never been told. Drawing on records from the front lines, case histories, personal letters and war pensions files, this profoundly moving book recounts the poignant, sometimes ribald life stories of this neglected group for the first time." Peter Barham shows how public feeling about the injustice being shown to servicemen who had become 'insane through fighting for their country' resulted in the emergence of the People's Lunatic, producing major concessions from the authorities. He examines the fate of the People's Lunatic in the class antagonisms between the wars and the uphill struggles that ex-servicemen faced trying to secure justice from the ironic behemoth that was the Ministry of Pensions.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
During World War I, thousands of British servicemen were diagnosed with mental illness brought on, according to military doctors, by such non-combat related causes as hereditary "imbecility." While these men were being shunted off to insane asylums as incurables, many officers with similar symptoms were diagnosed with "neurasthenia," which was assumed to be treatable. Barham postulates that the contradictory diagnoses were the result of class bias and the association of insanity with the ideology of the Poor Law, which treated indigents as guilty of moral failings. The war changed attitudes as the citizen army, and the public, demanded respect for veterans. Barham skillfully navigates a labyrinth of medical establishments, governmental bureaucracies, and civil-military relations in recounting the transformation of attitudes and social services related to the treatment of lunatics. Barham ends his provocative book by asserting that it took the Great War to demonstrate that there was "something seriously awry" with psychiatry. Recommended for all libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Like many successful histories, this is a study that allows the past to speak for itself without the historian getting in the way.”—Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Telegraph

“Barham charts the saga(s) of bureaucratic indifference, callous ignorance and class prejudice with commendable restraint.”—Sian Busby, The Times (London)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300125115
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Barham is a psychologist and social historian of mental health. He has published widely on mental health issues.

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Table of Contents

Prologue : the hosier and the imbecile go to war 11
Ch. 1 The new lunacy protest 31
Ch. 2 'D ward (imbecile)' 47
Ch. 3 The Napsbury cast 55
Ch. 4 'Greetings from Napsbury' 76
Coda : Albert goes to war again 94
Ch. 5 'Insane through fighting for their country' 99
Ch. 6 Justice for the citizen soldier 112
Coda : Albert gets a war psychosis pension 134
Ch. 7 How the weak progress 139
Ch. 8 Psychosis and life 150
Ch. 9 Family fortunes 167
Ch. 10 Officialdom and the pensioner 181
Ch. 11 'A very public madness' 199
Ch. 12 Demobbed to the asylum 211
Coda : a disappointed homecoming 222
Ch. 13 'Any man in any street' 231
Ch. 14 Lunatic officers 253
Ch. 15 'Hardening' 267
Ch. 16 The service patients between the wars 286
Coda : Connie and Alex 309
Ch. 17 Independent lives 313
Ch. 18 War psychosis pentathlons 327
Ch. 19 Caring : families and doctors 340
Ch. 20 Futures 355
Coda : the captain's valedictory letter 359
Afterword : remembering the forgotten lunatics 364
App. I The map of service lunacy 371
App. II The burden of costs 374
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