Laurier Military History Speaker Series: War, Trauma and Madness: Veterans of the British Raj

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Details

Col. Alfred Kirke French served with distinction through the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and was involved in some of its most brutal and harrowing battles. After being transferred to Bermuda, he had a mental breakdown and spent the rest of his life in an asylum. Today we might wonder if he was suffering from some form of PTSD; but at the time, the idea of mental trauma was far from the minds of medical practitioners. French never spoke about his military experiences, and his doctors never asked. Doctors working at his asylum were far more interested in the attack of sunstroke he suffered in India than any emotional suffering he might have experienced. In this talk, Dr. Milne-Smith will investigate what happened to veterans serving in British India when their minds broke down. More specifically, she will interrogate how Victorian military officials and doctors understood the idea of trauma to soldiers’ bodies and minds. 

Amy Milne-Smith is Associate Professor of History at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her recent works include “Work and Madness: Overworked Men and Fears of Degeneration, 1860s-1910s,” in the Journal of Victorian Culture and London Clubland: A Cultural History of Gender and Class in Late-Victorian Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). This project is part of a new SSHRC-funded research project entitled “Before Shell Shock: Madness and Mental Health in the British Army, 1857-1914.”

Event Type(s): Arts, Culture and Entertainment
Age Group(s): Adults

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