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Shell-shock and psychological medicine in First World War Britain

Loughran, TL (2009) 'Shell-shock and psychological medicine in First World War Britain.' Social History of Medicine, 22 (1). 79 - 95. ISSN 0951-631X

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Abstract

Historians have viewed the experience of shell-shock in First World War Britain as a crucial episode in the development of ?modern? psychological medicine, arguing doctors initially believed shell-shock was caused by the physical effects of shell explosions, and only gradually realised these were psychological disorders, treatable by psychotherapy. This article argues that conceptual frameworks of pre-war medicine provided models of mind-body relations which allowed doctors to recognise the emotional origins of shell-shock on the outbreak of war. Distinct schools of ?physical? and ?psychological? thought only emerged in 1916; physical theories persisted beyond 1918; and the war had an uneven effect on engagement with psychodynamic theories. Adoption of psychological vocabulary outstripped understanding, and widespread dissemination also resulted in hostility. Shell-shock marked an important moment in the emergence of the distinct disciplines of psychology and psychiatry in Britain, but this did not involve a radical departure from pre-war concepts of mental health.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: First World War; shell-shock; psychology; psychoanalysis; psychiatry
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2017 11:06
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2017 11:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/20231

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