Shell Shock beyond the War – A European perspective: 25th April 2022

An opportunity for academic staff, clinical staff and students to discuss the psychological consequences of war, a fascinating and multidisciplinary topic with huge relevance for historical and contemporary debates. Takes a European perspective on the paradigmatic example of combat stress of World War I, shell shock, and discuss the enduring relevance of psychological war trauma.

Symposium booklet
Photos and recordings from the event

La guerra dei nervi : They Called it Shell Shock: published in Italian

We are delighted to announce the publication of this book, translated by Rossana Rizzo, Queen Square Library.

Dr Stefanie Linden has carried out extensive research on the original medical case records at Queen Square and collated the suffering of the First World War soldiers in her They Called It Shell Shock. Now, for the first time, their personal stories and trauma can be relived in Italian.

Librarian Rossana Rizzo has translated a magnificent work that weaves the individual stories into the military backdrop of First World War. Just as the book highlights scientific discoveries that go beyond national boundaries, the realization of this book has been possible thanks to the collective efforts of colleagues located across Europe: first and foremost the author currently living in Maastricht, prof. Antonio Gibelli writing his introductory essay from Genova and Rossana translating from London.

A truly international achievement that will hopefully be enjoyed by an international audience.

La guerra dei nervi can be purchased from Guida Editori at a discounted rate by using the promo code ‘Guida5’.

Book reviews:
Alias Domenica 27th June 2021
Il Secolo XIX 17th June 2021

WWI’s Secret Shame: Shell Shocked

This programme, broadcast on BBC2 on 12th November 2018, features footage and materials from Queen Square Archives. Dan Snow discovers how the shell shock of WW1 has evolved into the cases of PTSD that modern soldiers suffer with today. Delving into previously unseen archives he reveals the difficult history of how Britain has reacted to the psychological consequences of warfare.

Box of Broadcasts (from 7mins) (UCL (or other institutional) password required for access)

shellshock book cover

They called it Shell Shock by Stefanie Linden

Dan interviewed Stefanie Linden, author of “They Called it Shell Shock” as part of the above programme.

“They called it Shell Shock” provides a new perspective on the psychological reactions to the traumatic experiences of combat. Stefanie Linden analysed over 660 original medical case records from shell-shocked soldiers who were treated at the world-leading neurological/psychiatric institutions of the time: the National Hospital at Queen Square in London, the Charité Psychiatric Department in Berlin and the Jena Military Hospital at Jena/Germany.

This is thus the first shell shock book to be based on original case records from both sides of the battle, and also one of the first books to tackle often neglected topics of war history, including desertion, suicide and soldiers’ mental illness. Based on her expertise in psychiatry and history of medicine, Stefanie argues that many modern trauma therapies had their root in the medicine of the First World War and that the experience of the shell shock patients and their doctors is still very relevant for the understanding of present-day traumatic diseases.

Linden, Stefanie. They called it Shell Shock: Combat Stress in the First World War
Helion and Company July 2018 (Reprint); 232 pages, 75 b/w ills (mainly photos), 1 colour ill

See also: *Linden et al. Triggers and Clinical Presentations of Functional Neurological Disorders: Lessons from World War 1 Eur Neurol 2020, 83(2) 171-81. 10.1159/000507698
*Linden When war came home: air-raid shock in World War I History of Psychiatry, 9th March 2021.
*Linden SC, Jones E. ‘Shell shock’ Revisited: An Examination of the Case Records of the National Hospital in London. Med Hist. 2014 Oct;58(4):519-45.

D for Diagnosis series on Radio 4

Friday 12th July 2019: What’s in a Name? Neurasthenia and homosexuality were both once classified as mental illness. Claudia Hammond reports on ever-changing labels and considers how today’s diagnoses will be seen in the future.

From the library of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, revisits original case notes of British soldiers in World War One who had been diagnosed with the newly emerged condition of shellshock. Shellshock affected hundreds of thousands of troops across Europe and Claudia discusses with Simon why this novel diagnosis became the predominant explanation for traumatic suffering at that particular time.

Available on BBC iPlayer(15-21mins)

IMPACT! Brain Injuries and WWI

The Headway Cambridgeshire Research Group have been investigating the types of brain injuries sustained by soldiers in World War One, the treatments they received, the doctors who treated them, and the hospitals where they received treatments, including visiting Queen Square Archives. Visit the Headway Cambridgeshire website for further information.