Over 80,000 cases of shell-shock were officially recognised by British Army personnel during the First World War. The diagnosis remains a culturally and historically resonant symbol of the First World War in Britain. Its significance has been influenced by the famous post-war memoirs of ex-servicemen who recounted their personal experiences of shell-shock.
Tom Crook has written a big book – big in scope, range, and thought. It is both an overview of the institutionalization of public health in England and an interpretation of that event as paradigmatic of the systems and practices of pervasive governance that constitute modernity.
The emergence of racial classification in conjunction with the Enlightenment Science of Man in the 18th century is a well-known chapter in the history of European ideas. Far less understood are the ways in which this scientific project carried into the 19th and 20th centuries, the investigation of which is Richard McMahon’s purpose in The Races of Europe.
This book traces trajectories of medical understanding of mind, brain and nerves from pre- to post-war Britain and analyses the impact of the First World War with its shell shock ‘epidemic’ on established medical ideas and practices.
Edited volumes serve an important purpose: when executed correctly, they help consolidate a body of scholarship, encourage dialogue between the volume’s contributors and set an agenda for future research. The historical study of trauma has been well-catered for in this respect by Traumatic Pasts, edited by Mark S.