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Treating and preventing trauma: British military psychiatry during the Second World War

Thalassis, N 2004, Treating and preventing trauma: British military psychiatry during the Second World War , PhD thesis, University of Salford, UK.

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    Abstract

    This is a study of military psychiatry in the Second World War. Focusing on the British Army, it recounts how the military came to employ psychiatrists to revise recruitment procedures and to treat psychiatric casualties. The research has shown that psychiatry was a valued specialty and that psychiatrists were given considerable power and independence. For example, psychiatrists reformed personnel selection and placed intelligence testing at the centre of the military selection of personnel. Psychiatrists argued that by eliminating the 'dull and backward' the tests would help improve efficiency, hygiene, discipline and morale, reduce psychiatric casualties and establish that the Army was run in a meritocratic way. However, it is probable that intelligence testing made it less likely that working-class men would receive commissions. Still, the Army had no consistent military doctrine about what the psychiatrists should be aiming for -to return as many psychiatric casualties to combatant duties as was possible or to discharge men who had found it impossible to adapt to military life. In the initial stages of the war, the majority of casualties were treated in civilian hospitals in Britain, where most were discharged. This was partly because the majority were regarded as constitutional neurotics. When psychiatrists treated soldiers near the front line most were retained in some capacity. The decision on whether to evacuate patients was influenced by multiple factors including the patients' military experience and the doctors' commitment to treatment or selection. Back in Britain, service patients were increasingly more likely to be treated in military hospitals such as Northfield -famous for the 'Northfield experiments'. These provided an alternative model of military psychiatry in which psychiatric intervention refocused away from individuals and their histories and onto social relationships, and where the psychiatrists' values were realigned with the military rather than with civilian general medicine.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Contributors: Keiger, J(Supervisor)
    Additional Information: PhD supervisor: Professor John Keiger
    Themes: Subjects / Themes > R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine > RA0790 Mental health. Mental illness prevention
    Subjects / Themes > B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
    Subjects / Themes > D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
    Health and Wellbeing
    Memory, Text and Place
    Subjects outside of the University Themes
    Schools: Colleges and Schools > College of Arts & Social Sciences
    Colleges and Schools > College of Arts & Social Sciences
    Colleges and Schools > College of Arts & Social Sciences > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Institutional Repository
    Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2009 16:28
    Last Modified: 18 Feb 2014 09:10
    URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/2160

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