The patient’s new clothes
British soldiers as complementary practitioners in the First World War
in Patient voices in Britain, 1840–1948
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The First World War patient is a well-known concept for most medical historians. Soldiers’ healthcare in the Great War has been documented by numerous historians who each present a unique view of the patient. Yet often, these patient studies are a mirror for biomedicine, reflecting on the workings of official healthcare. Distancing the patient from biomedicine allows the historian a new approach. Soldiers in the Great War were not only patients, but also complementary practitioners. Soldiers’ letters, diaries and oral histories provide first-hand accounts of the conditions in the trenches and the diseases they spurred. Men’s accounts convey soldiers’ understanding of their health and bodies as well as their unique medical practices. By re-framing the way in which we approach the patient, we are able to garner new understandings of past healthcare, and ask who is a medical practitioner and what constitutes a healthcare system?

Editors: Anne Hanley and Jessica Meyer

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