The Politics of Wounds: Pain, Disability and Society 1914-1925

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Arts Languages and Cultures

Abstract

The Politics of Wounds asks what does it mean to be wounded in war - and how can history help us to assess the legacies of this significant outcome of conflict? It examines WW1 as an industrialised and medicalised war that created new systems to treat the mass wounding of British citizen soldiers. It investigates how these systems fundamentally shaped medical services and military policies regarding the disabled that have impacted on soldiers, civilians and practitioners of rehabilitation ever since. This book uncovers a significant degree of political contestation about how the State would care for its wounded men. This involved political wrangling at the highest level, commissions of enquiry, media propaganda campaigns for civilian and troop morale, as well as behind-the-scenes conflicts between politicians, military personnel and medical practitioners (both regulars and civilian consultants). Humanitarian medicine and welfare agencies also mobilised the wounded body with its own agendas, influencing social and economic values that shaped public attitudes to disabled men.

The outcome of wounding for men was often poverty and social dislocation, and it was families that had to meet the financial and emotional gap between the state's provisions and welfare support. Resisting the myths of the wounded as either victims or heroes, this book explores the complexity of individual experiences, including how pain was dealt with, alongside recovery and poverty, and how masculine embodied identity was reconstructed after wounding. This book brings to light untapped sources from the rank and file in conjunction with official documents; while the story of war is often told from a powerful institutional perspective, this book highlights wounded and disabled men's voices. A second significant thread is to illuminate the social, economic and political value of the wounded body, and to consider continuity and change since WW1, especially in regard to policies, pensions and public attitudes. How did the First World War shape the conditions of military medicine and the social meaning of wounds and disablement in the present day?

The Politics of Wounds offers a new methodology, bringing together the study of military and medical history with the social and cultural history of war, and drawing upon phenomenological analysis of the wounded body 'that matters' (Butler), as well as anthropological and sociological studies into social relations and institutional behaviour. It also imports historical analysis into theoretical discussions about embodiment and identity, and draws significantly upon disability studies to question the political implications of disablement in wartime.

This project will produce a significant advance in the comprehension of the impact of war on the wounded, on the social and economic value of the wounded body in military medicine, in political debate, in humanitarian welfare, and in public attitudes to the war disabled. It will be of significant use for academics from a range of disciplines, as well as contemporary practitioners of public medicine and military policy. This book offers a timely analysis at an important juncture in British history, when the stories of the past can offer important lessons for our greater comprehension of the consequence of war through a socially intimate political history.
 
Description It proved how industrialised systems shaped medical services and military policies regarding the wounded and disabled that impacted on soldiers, practitioners of rehabilitation. It examined a significant degree of surgical experimentation and debate about the treatment of wounds. It exposed the political contestation about how the State would care for its wounded men. This involved political wrangling at the highest level, commissions of enquiry, media propaganda campaigns for civilian and troop morale, as well as behind-the-scenes conflicts between politicians, military personnel and medical practitioners (both regulars and civilian consultants). Veteran charities and welfare lobbyists also mobilised the wounded body with its own agendas, influencing social and economic values that shaped public attitudes to disabled men. It revealed the complexity of individual experiences, including how pain was dealt with, alongside recovery and poverty, and how masculinity was reconstructed after wounding. Men's reactions to pain were shown as we delved into the complex social life of hospitals and the culture inside the wards. It also revealed the agency and cultural forms that wounded men used to softly resist the power structures of the military hospital before being returned to the front.
Exploitation Route The research has proved interesting to scholars of history but also medical practitioners and surgeons interested in chronic pain after traumatic injuries.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description A major art exhibition with the Manchester Art Gallery for the centenary of WW1 and catalogue, below. 2014 Co-Editor, The Sensory War, 1914-2014, Manchester Art Gallery press, exhibition catalogue. *Single authored: 'The Sensory War, 1914-2014: Bodies, Minds and Environments'. ISBN 9780901673886
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description The Sensory War centenary exhibition with Manchester Art Gallery 
Organisation Manchester Art Gallery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The exhibition was the result of a partnership between my, the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery. The three curators spent 3.5 years putting this major exhibition together, which stretched over two floors of the gallery. It was an equal and joint effort. We met every Friday. It involved teams of workers from the host site (MAG) and a government indemnity for the insurance of international works. 203,000 people saw the exhibition, and it was widely acclaimed in the local, national and international press, including features in the NY Times and London Times.
Collaborator Contribution as above
Impact 2014 Co-Editor, The Sensory War, 1914-2014, Manchester Art Gallery press, exhibition catalogue. *Single authored: 'The Sensory War, 1914-2014: Bodies, Minds and Environments'. ISBN 9780901673886
Start Year 2011
 
Description Dunham Massey National Trust Public Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In association with the Dunham Massey exhibition opening, I spoke with Kate Adie on the grounds of the old house and WW1 hospital.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://e-tout.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/dunham-massey-is-stamford-military.html
 
Description Hidden Histories of Disabled Veterans in the First World War 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Disability History Month - inaugural event hosted by Manchester City Council Diversity and Equality group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.archivesplus.org/news/uk-disability-history-month-2014/
 
Description International New York TImes feature article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was the main curator and interviewee for this NYT article feature on the exhibition The Sensory War (manchester art gallery), which was the outreach project that followed on from the Politics of Wounds research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/16/arts/international/a-century-of-war-rendered-in-art.html?_r=0
 
Description The Safe House (BBC TV production) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A TV programme on Dunham Massey hospital in Cheshire. I was asked to be part of the production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01zzvwj