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A War of Nerves
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Table of Contents

Illustrations Acknowledgements Introduction 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 Notes Select Bibliography Index

Promotional Information

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

About the Author

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

Reviews

Psychiatrists were brought into war, independent historian and The World at War producer Shephard argues, because they seemed to be able to alleviate its mental traumas in ways both the military and civilian communities considered necessary. With a focus limited essentially to the British and U.S. experiences, with some references to German and French practices (and nothing at all about the Soviet Union), much of Shephard's text presents the personal and professional rivalries among individuals and movements firmly convinced of the validity of their particular patterns of treatment. Of greater significance, however, is Shephard's idea that modern military psychology can be thought of as an argument between "dramatists," concerned with defining and analyzing traumas and symptoms, and "realists," concerned with returning men not only to combat but to life. Since 1945, especially since Vietnam, according to Shephard, the "dramatists" have dominated, resulting in acceptance of a model of post-traumatic stress that assumes perpetual crisis and perpetual therapy. Shephard argues that, in at least one well-documented case, counseling professionals have perpetuated trauma-induced dysfunction by encouraging preoccupation with the trauma. In contrast, Shephard emphasizes the importance of social and cultural, as opposed to medical, responses to war stress: immediate local help, given by those who understand concepts of military group bonding, is crucial, underpinned by leadership and comradeship, dissociation and displacement; so are sex and memories of sex and "above all, singing, humor, and alcohol." Far from being placebos, he says, such defenses help contextualize traumatic situations by reasserting nontraumatic norms, even in combat. It is an argument currently unfashionable, but meriting correspondingly wide circulation and discussion. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Has the American counseling industry actually amplified the difficulties of the Vietnam veterans?...By pulling more and more terrified men away from the front during the first world war, did the army only confirm to them the seriousness and irrevocable nature of their hysterical conversion syndromes? These and many others are the questions that are unflinchingly addressed in this disturbing and original book. Ben Shephard, a historian and producer of war documentaries, explores the psychic traumas and dramas created during the two world wars and since...[His book is] provocative, deeply shocking, moving and always compelling...This reviewer, at least, hopes that it is widely read. The Economist 20001202 A War of Nerves is a fascinating and harrowing book. It is a history of what in the First World War was called "shell shock," that easy name for the complete "moral" and physical collapse of an individual soldier, and its reception by the military. [The military was] apt to treat it with an accusation of cowardice...prison or sometimes a firing squad...But Ben Shephard shows that most of the twentieth century saw a campaign to find out what causes soldiers to break down and to develop ways to help them recover. New Scientist 20001209 Shephard emphasizes the importance of social and cultural, as opposed to medical, responses to war stress: immediate local help, given by those who understand concepts of military group bonding, is crucial, underpinned by leadership and comradeship, dissociation and displacement...It is an argument currently unfashionable, but meriting correspondingly wide circulation and discussion. Publishers Weekly 20010212 An impressive history of mental illness and its treatment during wartime. Drawing on almost 100 years of medical records from Britain, France, Germany, and the US, the author shows how military commands consistently downplayed soldiers' psychiatric problems...An invaluable resource for doctors, scholars of war literature, and military leaders. Kirkus Reviews 20010202 Shepard's engaging and impressively researched study offers a detailed survey of psychiatric--and to a lesser extent, social and cultural--responses to war trauma from the First World War to the Gulf War of 1991...He ranges freely through British and American material and manages to incorporate useful discussions of German and French psychiatry as well...[Shepard] covers the medical dimension with equal mastery and introduces a rich panoply of psychiatric characters and movements. -- Paul Lerner Times Literary Supplement [In his] ambitious study, bolstered by an impressive array of sources...Shephard melds contemporary literary, military, and medical documentation by offering a panorama of war neuroses with conflicting schools of treatment. He suggests qualified answers as to why combatants react differently to stress and discusses the appropriate roles and investments of the military, government, and society in the rehabilitation of those psychologically crippled by war...This fine study should appeal to all readers. -- John Carver Edwards Library Journal 20010401 A War of Nerves is magnificent: expertly researched, richly textured, nuanced where the nuances matter, brutally clear where that helps...[T]his book will stand for what it is: an instant classic. In the United States, there's a saga, well embedded in popular consciousness, of the nexus between soldiers, psychiatrists and war-induced mental conditions...Mr. Shephard tells the story brilliantly, this tale of mass insanity and petty personal rivalries, of colliding morals and contending philosophies, and their still incalculable effects. -- Philip Gold Washington Times 20010429 Both a historian of psychiatry and a producer of documentary films, Shephard brings finely honed skills from both fields to his book. He matches his meticulously documented historical research with a journalist/producer's trained eye for the single detail, the precise anecdote, the appropriate quote that tells a story. The combination produces a fascinating and compelling exploration of a complex and still-controversial topic that could easily be ponderous and dull. -- Mary Hager National Journal 20010808 Shephard didn't write A War of Nerves with Iraq in mind; the bulk of it focuses on the two world wars and Vietnam, with a short section on the Falklands and the 1991 Gulf War at the end. But its unflinching look at the awkward intersection of psychiatry and the military offers a fascinating left-field perspective on war and its hidden costs. Weaving together a panoramic array of source materials (official reports, soldiers' diaries, interviews with doctors, Pentagon memos, snatches from novels and academic treatises), he catalogs 20th-century attempts to lessen the agony of war, at least for the troops--an unenviable task. -- Joy Press Village Voice 20030409

Shephard's ambitious study, bolstered by an impressive array of sources diaries, medical case studies, patient interviews, official publications, and physician reports chronicles military psychiatry in the 20th century. It begins at the chronological intersection of modern warfare and psychological medicine during the Great War and examines this troubled marriage through the periods of shell-shock (World War I), combat fatigue (World War II), and post-traumatic stress disorder (Vietnam, Falkland campaign, and the Gulf War). Shephard melds contemporary literary, military, and medical documentation by offering a panorama of war neuroses with conflicting schools of treatment. He suggests qualified answers as to why combatants react differently to stress and discusses the appropriate roles and investments of the military, government, and society in the rehabilitation of those psychologically crippled by war. The author, a former producer of "The World at War" series, concludes that perhaps "military psychiatry is often done best not by psychiatrists but by doctors, officers, or soldiers who understand the principles of group psychology and use the defenses in culture to help people through traumatic situations." This fine study should appeal to all readers. Recommended for psychology, psychiatry, and medical history collections, as well as for large public and academic libraries. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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