In 1920, Britain changed its pension laws to allow women to receive compensation for any injuries sustained during the First World War. However, because time had passed since their active service, many found themselves having to prove that their symptoms were directly related to their war experience (and not a result of prewar hereditary conditions or postwar events). They had to find a doctor, a superior from their service, or, at the very least, a family member who could attest that the cause of their suffering was from their service.
Fabian Klose is a senior researcher at the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) in Mainz and privatdozent at the history department at the LMU Munich. He lives in Mainz, Germany, and has been a member since 2014.
One of the most challenging aspects of studying the case notes of women treated for war trauma is that I encounter them at some of the worst moments of their lives. There are often few ways to find more information about them, or to learn what their lives were like after they were released. In many cases, the only story that I can craft about the women I study is about their incarceration in asylums and hospitals, or about their struggle for pensions and medical recognition through their postwar pension files.
“Patient has an anxious frightened and distressed expression . . . is unhappy and emotional . . . .” During the First World War, such descriptions were often used in case notes to describe patients with shell-shock. This particular description comes from the case notes of a woman named Margaret Müller, a Belgian refugee who was admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum in 1915. I found Müller’s case notes during my dissertation research, thanks to the help of the dedicated archivists at the London Metropolitan Archives.
The image of the “shell-shocked soldier” remains one of the most enduring of the First World War. His symptoms have become fundamental to understanding the war and the damage it inflicted on the human mind and spirit. Soldiers, however, were not the only war participants to suffer psychological trauma. Women—both on the battle front and the home front—exhibited symptoms of trauma directly related to their war experience, as evidenced by case notes, hospital records, pension files, and correspondence. It is their experiences that I wish to highlight in my AHA Today summer contest blog posts.
By E. Thomas Ewing and Virginia Tech Students enrolled in HIST 3604: Russia to Peter the Great
Last fall, Virginia Tech students taking History 3604: Russia to Peter the Great engaged in a sustained discussion on “why study history?” In the class, we often took examples from current news or recent history and established connections to the historical period covered by the readings, lecture, and assignments (here’s a link to the syllabus). Each week, a group of two or three students wrote a short statement explaining how the readings illustrated the value of studying history, which we then discussed in class.
By Susan L. Carruthers
On January 16, 2017, the New York Times printed an arresting image of US Marines arriving in Norway, the first foreign troops to be deployed on Norwegian soil since 1945. The accompanying text focused on Norwegians’ anxieties about what this deployment, announced as an opportunity for the Marines to “hone their abilities to fight in tough winter conditions,” might portend in geopolitical terms. Like any display of “alertness,” this show of preparedness risks aggravating tensions rather than alleviating them.
By Kalani Craig
The lowly charter.
It lives in infamy, perhaps because charters—written records that cemented a variety of agreements about sales, leases, officeholders, and a host of other legal transactions—are simultaneously rich treasure troves of historical information and, when you read a lot of them in a row, sleep-inducing.