top of page


Veterans, globalized: veterans and their societies in international perspective.

26-28 March 2018

Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center 

Roanoke, Virginia, USA

Abstracts of research

Coming to terms with shell shock

Panel 3
Tuesday, 10:30-11:45.  Wilson Room
Lydiard Horton’s 1917-1918 articles on “The Significance of Trench Nightmare” for National Service Magazine and his 1918 “Report on the Treatment of Troops by Psychological Methods for the Prevention of Functional Nervous Disorders”

Hendrika Vande Kemp

Independent scholar


In 1916, the 37-year-old psychologist Lydiard Horton participated in the arduous citizens training camp at Plattsburgh, New York. Encouraged to assist the war effort as a psychologist, Horton contributed two articles on “trench nightmare” to National Service Magazine (1917 and 1918), advocating for inclusion of emotional training for war in basic training, and normalizing the reaction of  “shell shock.” A dream researcher, he approached trench nightmares “as reactions to over-persistent memories of the trench situation” and problems of circulation, a wasting of the emotions also involving nerve exhaustion and physical fatigue. In 1918 Horton submitted an extensive “Report Concerning the Treatment of Troops by Psychological Methods for the Prevention of Functional Nervous Disorders” to Pearce Bailey, Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Corps of the Office of the Surgeon General. Here, the topic was “acopic schooling,” or anti-fatigue training, for aviators. Unfortunately, his recommendations were not adopted by the military leadership.

“Let [us] be careful…not to breed mental illness”: Containing combat neurosis between the world wars

Corrine Hinton

Texas A&M University – Texarkana


During and after World War One, shell shock fascinated and frightened political and military leaders as well as members of the military and civilian psychiatric communities throughout America and Great Britain. Facing the bilateral obstacle of generating public support for another total war, both countries intensified efforts to identify ways to prevent combat neurosis and launched respective wars against the contagion, focusing their efforts on two fronts: the military and the public. Both nations employed strategies to educate their citizens about shell shock, inoculating them through domestic propaganda maneuvers including censorship and public health rhetoric disguised as military literacy.


Showcasing evidence from government reports, personal accounts, research, and commentary produced during the period, this presentation shares American and British responses to the epidemic with specific interest in their strategies for securing rhetorical control as they prepared and persuaded citizens for involvement in another world war.  

Between the words and the actions: why so few Great War nursing women were diagnosed with shell shock

Rose-Ethel Althaus-Meza

Nassau Community College

This paper emerged from research on shell shock, 1853-1938. Great War British and American documents almost never put a shell shock diagnosis on official nursing records. This vivid omission is apparent in nurse's letters, diaries, memoirs, and war writings, where they often describe their symptoms of shell shock in detail. The official euphemism seems to have been "physical exhaus1on." Nursing women also had regulated rotated rest periods at women's hospitals near the front where the Belgian Klopper shell shock treatment methods could be used.


Putting a diagnosis of shell shock on a nurse's documented professional record would end any future career aspirations at
a time when a plethora of nursing specialties were opening due to wartime medical advances. Shell shock was becoming more and more iden1fied with nervous instability -- insanity. All of the examples used were selected from primary sources.

This Veterans in Society Conference is based at
in collaboration with 
Virginia Tech logo
Logo and tagline of University of Missouri, Saint Louis
Arizone State Univertiy logo

Follow our Veterans Studies Conference community and  #ViS2018  on Facebook and Twitter.

bottom of page