Article ID: CBB001320358

French Neuropsychiatry in the Great War: Between Moral Support and Electricity (2013)


In World War I, an unprecedented number of soldiers were suffering from nervous disturbances, known as war psychoneuroses. Mechanisms of commotion, emotion, and suggestion were defined in order to explain these disturbances. In France, emphasis was placed on the mechanism of suggestion, based onpithiatism, introduced by Joseph Babinski (1857--1932) before the war to highlight the concept of suggestion and its hazy border with simulation. As a result, many soldiers suffering from war neuroses became considered as simulators or malingerers who were merely attempting to escape the front. A medical-military collusion ensued with the aim of sending as many of these nervous cases back to the front as possible through the use of painful or experimental therapies. Aggressive therapies flourished includingtorpillage,a particularly painful form of electrotherapy developed by Clovis Vincent (1879--1947) and subsequently by Gustave Roussy (1874--1948). At the end of the war, some psychiatrists, such as Paul Sollier (1861--1933), Georges Dumas (1866--1946), and Paul Voivenel (1880--1975), developed a more psychological approach. In Great Britain, where Charles Myers (1873--1946) coined the termshell shockin 1915 to describe these cases, psychological theories were more successful. In Germany, aggressive therapies developed by Fritz Kaufmann (1875--1941) emerged in the second part of the war. In Austria, the future Nobel Prize winner Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1857--1940) was accused of performing violent therapies on patients with war neuroses. These methods, which now seem barbarian or inhuman, were largely accepted at the time in the medical community and today should be judged with caution given the cultural, patriotic, and medical background of the Great War

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Authors & Contributors
Crouthamel, Jason
Mark C. Wilkins
Peter B. Thompson
Rebecca Ayako Bennette
Dietze, Gabriele
Wilson, Renate
History of Psychiatry
Twentieth-Century British History
Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science
Journal of the History of Sexuality
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
History and Technology
Pen and Sword Books
University of Exeter Press
Springer International
Palgrave Macmillan
Franz Steiner Verlag
Cornell University Press
World War I
War neuroses
Psychology and war
Medicine and the military; medicine in war
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
Oppenheim, Hermann
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
18th century
Great Britain
United States
Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

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