An invaluable resource for doctors, scholars of war literature, and military leaders.




An impressive history of mental illness and its treatment during wartime.

Drawing on almost 100 years of medical records from Britain, France, Germany, and the US, the author shows how military commands consistently downplayed soldiers’ psychiatric problems. In WWI, it took years for generals on both sides to acknowledge that shell shock was more than cowardice, even though sufferers of the condition often became mute or paralyzed. When army psychiatric hospitals were finally established, cures involved milk diets and electroshock therapy. The author, who worked as a producer on the British television documentary The World at War, peppers his text with tales that remind us why a soldier might have lost his mind in the trenches of France. (For example: An explosion throws a soldier into the air. He lands on a decomposed body, smearing his face with rotten entrails.) From Shephard’s perspective, Freud provided the best way for military psychologists to handle their patients. The notion of an unconscious repressing unpleasant experiences became a workable framework for treatment, allowing doctors to hypnotize and cure the traumatized with a degree of success. During WWII, the London Blitz, tank warfare, and island-to-island fighting in the Pacific brought new versions of the old troubles. Generals were still reluctant to address shell shock until it affected their manpower. Unlike their counterparts in WWI, however, psychologists by the 1940s could administer an array of drugs to their patients, who by then were being called depressive. The heroes of this history, all doctors, are named. They don’t really stand out as individuals against the mass of historical material, but their movement to instill respect for the mind’s frailty succeeded, at least in theory. Shephard writes that American veterans of the Gulf War view their government’s failure to look after their mental conditions as just that—a failure—rather than as an understandable lapse.

An invaluable resource for doctors, scholars of war literature, and military leaders.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-674-00592-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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