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A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century

A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century

by Ben ShephardBen Shephard
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A War of Nerves is a history of military psychiatry in the twentieth century—an authoritative, accessible account drawing on a vast range of diaries, interviews, medical papers, and official records, from doctors as well as ordinary soldiers. It reaches back to the moment when the technologies of modern warfare and the disciplines of psychological medicine first confronted each other on the Western Front, and traces their uneasy relationship through the eras of shell-shock, combat fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At once absorbing historical narrative and intellectual detective story, A War of Nerves weaves together the literary, medical, and military lore to give us a fascinating history of war neuroses and their treatment, from the World Wars through Vietnam and up to the Gulf War. Ben Shephard answers recurring questions about the effects of war. Why do some men crack and others not? Are the limits of resistance determined by character, heredity, upbringing, ideology, or simple biochemistry?

Military psychiatry has long been shrouded in misconception, and haunted by the competing demands of battle and of recovery. Now, for the first time, we have a definitive history of this vital art and science, which illuminates the bumpy efforts to understand the ravages of war on the human mind, and points towards the true lessons to be learned from treating the aftermath of war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674011199
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/30/2003
Edition description: Revised ed.
Pages: 512
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Ben Shephard writes widely on psychiatry and its history. He was a producer on Thames Television's The World at War.

Table of Contents




Prologue: The Shock of the Shell

1. Doctors' Minds

2. Shell-Shock in France

3. Trench Work

4. The Somme

5. Psychiatry at the Front, 1917-18

6. Home Fires

7. Europeans

8. Arguments and Enigmas, 1917-18

9. 'Skirting the Edges of Hell'

10. Inquests

11. 'Will Peace Bring Peace?'

12. The Lessons of Shell-Shock

13. Dunkirk, the Blitz and the Blue

14. 'We Can Save those Boys from Horror'

15. Front-line Psychiatry

16. New Ways of War

17. D-Day and After

18. A Tale of Two Hospitals

19. The Helmeted Airman

20. Learning from the Germans?

21. Prisoners of War

22. A Good War?

23. Vietnam Doctors

24. From Post-Vietnam Syndrome to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

25. 'When the Patient Reports Atrocities...'

26. From the Falklands to the Gulf

27. The Culture of Trauma


Select Bibliography


What People are Saying About This

Sir John Keegan

Ben Shephard's study of how war wounds men's minds, and of medicine's efforts to heal the damage done, is based on years of dedicated research. It is the best book I have read on the subject and it will endure.
Sir John Keegan, author of The First World War

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