Because shell-shock is a term specific to World War I but describes a condition which remains today, this paper sets the context for studying the British experience of shell-shock by carefully explaining what modern psychology says regarding PTSD and examining a few select texts by Wilfred Owen to demonstrate the psychological concepts in historic pieces. A historical comparison is made between the modern understanding of PTSD and the historic understanding of shell-shock as set forth in the Freudian paradigm between 1914 and 1920. The final pages examine the effects of this paradigm on the conclusions drawn by the War Office Committee of Enquiry into â€˜Shell-Shockâ€™. The argument set forth in this paper asserts that the attempts by British Officials to effectively respond to the consequences of the emergence of shell-shock as a widespread condition among English soldiers in World War I, particularly in the conclusions of the War Office Committee of Enquiry into Shell-Shock, demonstrate a pervasive ignorance of the underlying causes of mental illness due to prevailing paradigms for cultural behavior and psychological understanding. Because the committeeâ€™s conclusions emphasized military training rather than a better understanding of shell-shock psychologically, officials failed to implement significant changes in mental health treatment as a precedent for future wars. The logical conclusion made from this argument emphasizes that historians, not condemning past officials for their lack of understanding, they must understand the tragic cost of this ignorance in Britain and globally if they are to be of use to future policy makers.
Dr. Walter E. Grunden
First Advisor Department
Dr. Craig Vickio
Second Advisor Department
Corfman, Bradley W., "The Cost of Ignorance: Shell-Shock in Britain during World War I" (2013). Honors Projects. 33.