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Week 7: Military Medicine

Lecturer: Elise Smith

Military medicine has traditionally been associated with advances in the treatment of wounds. However, the deployment of troops around the world in conflicts of varying size and character has meant that military medical personnel have long had to deal with a wide variety of afflictions, from tropical diseases, to venereal diseases, to psychological trauma. This session will examine the modernisation these practices, focusing on how the challenges of warfare, and the hierarchical nature of the armed forces, have shaped the character of military medicine since the eighteenth century.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

  • To what extent has military medicine been ‘good’ for civilian medicine?
  • How (and why) did state provisions for disabled servicemen change between 1750 and 1950?
  • How effectively did military medicine confront the challenges associated with either venereal diseases or PTSD in twentieth-century conflicts?

Required Readings:

Roger Cooter, ‘Medicine and the Goodness of War’, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 12 (1990), pp. 147-59. [e-journal]

Harrison, Mark, ‘Medicine and the Management of Modern Warfare’, History of Science, 34 (1996), pp. 380-409. [e-journal]


Further Readings:

Ken Arnold, Klaus Vogel and James Peto, War and Medicine (London,2008)

E. H. Beardsley, ‘Allied Against Sin: American and British Responses to Venereal Disease in World War I,’ Medical History 20 (1976), 189-202.

A.C. Barger, S. Benison, and E. L. Wolfe, ‘Walter B. Cannon and the Mystery of Shock: A Study of Anglo-American Co-operation in World War I’, Medical History 35 (1991), 217-249.

Ted Bogacz, ‘War Neuroses and Social Cultural Change in England, 1914-22: The Work of the War Office Committee into “Shell-Shock”’, Journal of Contemporary History 24 (1989), 227-256.

Linda Bryder, ‘The First World War: Healthy or Hungry?,’ History Workshop Journal 24 (1987), 141-157.

Zachary Cope, ‘The Medical Balance Sheet of War’ in Zachary Cope, Some Famous General Practitioners and Other Historical Essays (London, 1961)

Roger Cooter, Surgery and Society in Peace and War: Orthopaedics and the Organization of Modern Medicine, 1880-1948 (London, 1993).

Roger Cooter, Mark Harrison and Steve Sturdy (eds.), War, Medicine, and Modernity (Phoenix Mill, 1998)

Roger Cooter, Mark Harrison and Steve Sturdy (eds.), Medicine and Modern Warfare (Amsterdam, 1999)

Philip D. Curtin, ‘The White Man’s Grave: Image and Reality, 1750-1850’, Journal of British Studies 1 (1961), 94-110.

Philip D. Curtin, Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical World in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1989)

David Gerber, Disabled Veterans in History (Ann Arbor, 2000)

Mark Harrison, Medicine and Victory: British Military Medicine in the Second World War (Oxford, 2004)

Mark Harrison, The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War (Oxford, 2010)

____________, ‘.The British Army and the Problem of Venereal Disease in France and Egypt during the First World War’, Medical History, 39 (1995), 133-58.

____________, ‘Sex and the Citizen Soldier: Health, Morals and Discipline in the British Army during the Second World War’, in R. Cooter, M. Harrison & S. Sturdy (eds.), Medicine and Modern Warfare (1999), 225-50.

Lisa Herschbach, ‘Prosthetic Reconstructions: Making the Industry, Remaking the Body, Modelling the Nation,’ History Workshop Journal 44 (1997), 20-57.

John Hutchinson, Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross (Boulder, 1996)

Colin Jones, ‘The Welfare of the French Foot-Soldier,’ History 65 (1980), 193-213.

Christopher Lawrence, ‘Disciplining Diseases: Scurvy, the Navy and Imperial Expansion, 1750-1825’ in D. Miller and P. Reill (eds.), Visions of Empire (Cambridge, 1996), 80-106.

Peter Mathias, ‘Swords into Ploughshares: the Armed Forces, Medicine and Public Health in the Late Eighteenth Century’, in J. Winter (ed.), War and Economic Development (Cambridge, 1975)

J.R. McNeill, ‘The Ecological Basis of Warfare in the Caribbean, 1700-1804,’ in M. Ultee (ed.), Adapting to Conditions: War and Society in the Eighteenth Century (Alabama, 1986), 26-42.

Peter Neushul, ‘Science, Government and the Mass Production of Penicillin,’ Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 38 (1993), 371-395.

Ben Shepard, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists 1914-1994 (London, 2000)

Gregory M. Thomas, Treating the Trauma of the Great War: Soldiers, Civilians and Psychiatry in France, 1914-1940(Baton Rouge, 2009). Esp. Chapter One, 'Trauma in the Trenches', pp. 20-70

Bridget Towers, ‘Health Education Policy 1916-1926: Venereal Disease and the Prophylaxis Dilemma’, Medical History, 24 (1980), 70-87

Jay Winter, The Great War and the British People (Cambridge, 1986)