Before My Helpless Sight

Suffering, Dying and Military Medicine on the Western Front, 1914-1918

Voorpagina boek

  • Imprint: Ashgate
  • Illustrations: Includes 20 b&w illustrations
  • Published: March 2009
  • Format: 234 x 156 mm
  • Extent: 527 pages
  • Binding: Hardback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7546-5853-5
  • Price : £35.00 » Online: £31.50
  • BL Reference: 940.4’75
  • LoC Control No: 20008037954

Leo van Bergen, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands Series : The History of Medicine in Context


Despite the numerous vicious conflicts that scared the twentieth century, the horrors of the Western Front continue to exercise a particularly strong hold on the modern imagination. The unprecedented scale and mechanization of the war changed forever the way suffering and dying were perceived and challenged notions of what the nations could reasonably expect of their military. Examining experiences of the Western front, this book looks at the life of a soldier, from the moment he marched to battle, until he was buried. In five chapters - Battle, Body, Mind, Aid, Death - it describes and analyses the physical and mental hardship of the men who fought on a front that stretched from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border.

Beginning with a broad description of the war it then analyses the medical aid the Tommies, Bonhommes and Frontschweine received - or often enough did not receive - revealing how this aid was often given for military and political reasons rather than for humanitarian ones (getting the men back to front or weapons factory and trying to spare the state as much war-pensions as possible). It concludes with a chapter on the many ways death presented itself on or around the battlefield, and sets out in detail the problems that rise when more people are killed than possibly can be buried properly.

Contrary to most books in the field this study does not focus on one single issue - such as venereal disease, plastic surgery, shell-shock or the military medical service - but takes a broad view on wounds and illnesses across both sides of the conflict. Drawing on British, French, German and Dutch sources it shows the consequences of modern warfare on the human individuals caught up in it, and the way it influences our thinking on ‘humanitarian’ activities.

Contents: Introduction; Battle; Body; Mind; Aid; Death; Afterword; Bibliography; Index.

Update november 2016: Ashgate is samengegaan met uitgeverij Routledge.

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