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Army, Medicine, and Modernity in WWI Germany

This book is a critical examination of the relationships between war, medicine, and the pressures of modernization in the waning stages of the German Empire. Through her examination of wartime medical and scientific innovations, government and military archives, museum and health exhibitions, philanthropic works, consumer culture and popular media, historian Heather Perry reveals how the pressures of modern industrial warfare did more than simply transform medical care for injured soldiers—they fundamentally re-shaped how Germans perceived the disabled body. As the Empire faced an ever more desperate labour shortage, military and government leaders increasingly turned to medical authorities for assistance in the re-organization of German society for total war. Thus, more than a simple history of military medicine or veteran care, Recycling the Disabled tells the story of the medicalization of modern warfare in Imperial Germany and the lasting consequences of this shift in German society.

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War and medicine in World War I Germany
Heather R. Perry

Opening with a description of the wounds soldiers received in the First World War, the introduction offers readers an overview of the significance of medicine to modern warfare. A brief review of the new military weapons and tactics deployed between 1914 and 1918 outlines how and why these developments resulted in unprecedented casualties and why the German Army was so unprepared for them. Next the introduction reviews the historiography of medicine in the First World War, while also pointing to the paucity of studies which examine this phenomenon in Germany. After elaborating upon why an academic study of the role of medicine in WWI Germany remains to be written and why historians of both war and medicine should be interested in such a study, the introduction then outlines how this book addresses this scholarly lacuna while also contributing to larger debates among historians of medicine. Lastly this section introduces and defines key concepts to the study, including terms such as militarization, medicalization, and specialization.

in Recycling the disabled
The re-orientation of German orthopaedics
Heather R. Perry

Chapter one begins with an examination of the social and medical programs for disabled adults in Imperial Germany and outlines how the introduction of social insurance in the 1880s divided Germany’s disabled population. Next, it traces how this division fostered the development of different—and sometimes competing—medical professionals for each disabled population: worker, accident victim, or child. Next, the chapter outlines how the war changed this by offering orthopaedists an opportunity to prove their usefulness to the war-time state. It continues with an examination of the treatment innovations developed in the first two years of the war—such as War Orthopaedics—while also pointing out how orthopaedists edged out their medical competitors. In demonstrating their medical expertise, orthopaedists carved out their own specialized sphere of medicine and distanced themselves from their competitors. These treatment innovations stemmed not just from a desire to heal the soldier, but also by a desire to protect the state’s financial interests. By returning the disabled soldier to work, orthopaedists were hoping to prevent the national welfare systems from becoming over-burdened while also making themselves invaluable to the war-time state.

in Recycling the disabled
WWI and the revolution in artificial limbs
Heather R. Perry

Chapter two examines the changes in artificial limb technology and the expansion of orthopaedic authority into this aspect of disability care. Before the war, prosthetic limbs had concentrated on either masking disability by replicating the appearance of the human arm or by facilitating small everyday movements. However, sending the disabled back to work meant reconstructing their bodies in ways which would facilitate heavy labor or specialized tasks. As the casualties mounted, orthopaedists positioned themselves as experts not only in the medical treatment of the disabled, but also in the design and distribution of artificial limbs. They gradually enlisted engineers and “scientists of work” into their mission to develop limbs and devices which more closely replicated the functions—not the form--of the human body.

in Recycling the disabled
Re-membering the disabled in war-time Germany
Heather R. Perry

Chapter three begins with the organization of German military medicine and traces the path of the wounded soldier from the battlefield to the homefront. It then outlines how military authorities enlisted orthopaedists into the re-organization of Army medical care for the severely injured. This re-organization included establishing orthopaedic clinics and workshops within the military’s medical hierarchy. In addition to radically re-organizing the war-time medical service of the German Army, orthopaedists also re-structured social welfare services for disabled civilians. Eventually, treating the disabled soldier included more than the physical rehabilitation of his body, but also the social management of the serviceman which could include career counseling, vocational training, secondary education, geographical relocation, and finally job placement. As this chapter demonstrates, plans for re-inserting the soldier into German society were ultimately guided with as much attention to the re-establishment of crumbling social boundaries as they were to the individual needs of the permanently injured. Eventually programs for securing the economic future of the disabled soldier became virtually indistinguishable with those for ensuring national renewal—and in all of these orthopaedists were keen to lead the way.

in Recycling the disabled
Re-casting the ‘cripple’ in war-time Germany
Heather R. Perry

Chapter four examines how orthopaedists “re-educated” war-time Germans about the disabled body. Many Germans rejected the notion that the permanently injured body was capable of productive work, maintaining instead that the disabled soldier should be financially compensated for his service, and not forced to earn a living. Therefore during the war orthopaedists launched a campaign to shift public perceptions of the injured body. This re-education was designed to prove that the disabled body could be “re-abled” through medical technology and returned to work. It also aimed to gain the support and help of the public by demonstrating ways in which the average German could help in this project. Combining museum exhibitions, medical pamphlets, public demonstrations, speeches, films, and the popular press, medical authorities shifted the public image of the disabled by showing that he was no longer helpless or dependent, but actually self-sufficient. They also argued that the veteran should no longer be financially reliant upon the state, but rather that, as restored man, he should care for himself. By demonstrating the potential of modern medicine to restore the severely-injured body, orthopaedists and government officials sought to rally continued support for the war.

in Recycling the disabled
The mobilisation of the wounded in war-time Germany
Heather R. Perry

Chapter five examines how the “recovered labor” of the disabled soldier was organized and distributed within the wartime economy. It reveals the links forged by military authorities between the medical project of healing the disabled and the national project of “total mobilization” once the manpower crisis set in by mid-1916. Having been convinced by medical authorities that the permanently injured were capable of work, key figures in German industry began developing ways to re-use the disabled for the production of war materiel. The military, too, recognized the advantages of harnessing the labor of these newly-restored men. Through two case studies—the Siemens plant in Berlin and the Deputy War Office in Dresden (Saxony)—this study shows how both army and industry became major advocates of “recycling the disabled” within the militarized labor economy of “total war” from 1916-1918.

in Recycling the disabled
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Mobilisation, militarisation, and medicalisation in WWI Germany
Heather R. Perry

The conclusion outlines how the medical and social developments driven by the war had important long-term consequences for various segments of German society: orthopaedists, university medical departments, disabled veterans, and disabled soldiers. It demonstrates how the specialization of orthopaedics in Germany differed in important ways from its specialization in other Western nations and points out how and why this was fundamentally tied to their war-time service. The conclusion also examines the consequences of war-time developments in orthopaedics for disabled civilians in Germany after the war. Finally, the conclusion makes broader historiographical points for historians of war and historians of medicine, and demonstrates how important developments in medicine, medical science, and medical technology were for the “management of modern warfare” in the German Empire from 1914 through 1918.

in Recycling the disabled