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

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  47 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Ben Shephard provides a history of military psychiatry in the 20th century. It reaches back to the Western Front when modern war and medicine first met, and traces their relationship through the eras of shell-shock, combat fatigue and Gulf War syndrome.
Paperback, 487 pages
Published March 30th 2003 by Harvard University Press (first published 2000)
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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueThe Trigger by Tim ButcherThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanBirdsong by Sebastian FaulksA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Great War
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Joseph Heller seems to have truly hit the nail on the head as regards military psychiatry in his famous Catch-22 - 'anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy', and yet what could be more sane than wanting to escape a battlefield? Faced with the impossible logic of such a scenario, it is no wonder that so many soldiers throughout the years have developed a veritable cornucopia of psychological, psychosomatic and hysterical symptoms under the hell of warfare. When the unconscio ...more
Margaret Sankey
Vivid history of military psychiatry from the realization of the need in 1915 to the book's publication in 2001. Shephard uses the Imperial War Museum's stash of diaries and letters to illustrate the struggle medical personnel have had, torn between the interests of their patients, and the desire of their governmental employers to put soldiers back in the field and pay minimal pensions (while not touching off revolt among the voters). Shephard is careful to follow the changing conceptions of mas ...more
Meg Sondey
Have you heard the terms "battle fatigue" or "shell shock"? How about "PTSD"? If you are interested in the development of treatments for psychological issues caused by war-time experiences, you will find Shephard's book illuminating. It is dense, but it is readable, and will take you through the variety of explanations and treatments for psychological trauma during the twentieth century. A significant amount of the book discusses non-US experiences, theories, and physicians, so if you are intere ...more
Considering that the infantry along with the air and the naval forces have been and continue to be despatched with unending regularity across the globe, an evolving century-wide enquiry into what kind of psychological wounds the soldiers at the frontline have endured over the years should make for an interesting enough read. And not surprisingly, it does.

Ben Shephard's painstakingly researched synthesis is so compelling that it should be made an essential companion book to all the tomes detailin
Bob Fowler
I bought and read this book some time ago as it relates to my excessive interest in the emotional cost of combat on soldiers. I think it is the most complete and readable history of combat stress in the 20th century, providing good insight into how military psychiatry has evolved from "shell shock" (little understood then) in WW 1 to combat exhaustion and PTSD to-day. Its understanding is still evolving in Afghanistan and Iraq, but this book is a good start.
Dec 30, 2014 Chanpheng marked it as 2015-reading
Reading this related to my work. This book is about the treatement of mental health crises in soldiers through the ages of modern warfare.
Thomas Weitz
Not always well written but worth a read for anyone interested in the history and development of psychology.
THE work to read for anyone interested in the topic!
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Ben Shephard (1948 - ) is an English historian, author and television producer.
He was educated at Diocesan College, Cape Town and Westminster School. He graduated in history from Oxford University and has made many historical documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4, including producer of The World at War and The Nuclear Age.
More about Ben Shephard...
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