Effeminacy, Ethnicity and the End of Trauma: The Sufferings of ‘Shell-shocked’ Men in Great Britain and Ireland, 1914–39

TitleEffeminacy, Ethnicity and the End of Trauma: The Sufferings of ‘Shell-shocked’ Men in Great Britain and Ireland, 1914–39
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsBourke, Joanna
JournalJournal of Contemporary History
Volume35
Issue1
Start Page57
Pagination57-69
Date Published01/2000
Abstract

Enforced passivity in the midst of life-threatening danger caused many men in wartime to suffer psychological collapse. This article examines some aspects of this experience, including the ways in which men who were repelled by combat violence were regarded as ‘abnormal’ and needed to be ‘cured’ of this repulsion and made to embrace their aggressive urges. During the first world war, certain types of men were regarded by military and medical personnel as more susceptible to this weakness. One crucial indicator was ethnicity. For instance, despite their reputation for being a ‘martial race’, Irishmen were said to be pre-disposed to insanity. This article, therefore, examines the ways in which this prejudice developed, and its implications for Irish sufferers of ‘shell-shock’ during and after the war.

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