The Age of Trauma

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
14 September 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

What is ‘trauma’? How and why has it become an emblem of suffering in contemporary societies? This module traces the social and medical history of trauma from 1900 through the ‘invention’ of PTSD in the 1970s to the present. It examines the social changes that have put trauma on the map, and how understandings of trauma reflect the social norms of their time. The module topics cover two related themes: the role of psychology in military conflict during the twentieth century, and the impact of social movements from the 1960s concerned with the victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, racial injustice, and colonial traumas. The Autumn term covers the World Wars of the twentieth century, colonial conflicts in India and Algeria, and the medical and social legacies of the Vietnam war. Spring term examines social movements around childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, the AIDs epidemic, and the politics of memorialising trauma. Investigating the history of military psychiatry alongside the victim social movements of the 1960s and 70s, the module develops a critical understanding of trauma culture and medicalisation.

Module aims

Drawing on approaches from the sociology of medicine and the history of modern warfare, it examines how medical understandings of trauma reflect the social norms of their time. Beginning with the late nineteenth century and cases of hysteria, the module considers the discovery of ‘shell-shock’ in the First World War and concludes with Gulf War Syndrome and the expansion of PTSD in the 1990s. The therapeutic industries of today, it could be argued, are the children of war. Investigating the history of military psychiatry alongside representations of war trauma in art, film, and personal testimony, the module develops a critical understanding of trauma culture in ‘the age of catastrophe’.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, the students should have:

1. knowledge of global conflicts across the 20th Century and their psychological impact on participants and later generations
2. critical understanding of concepts of trauma past and present, how they are shaped by society and history, and how they change over time from ‘hysteria’ and ‘soldier’s heart’ to ‘shell-shock’ and ‘PTSD’
3. capacity to analyse and interpret testimonies of trauma, including novels, memoirs, official sources, oral testimony and film, and locate them in time and place

Module information

Please use the link below to view the Introduction video to The Age of Trauma:

Learning and teaching methods

Most modules in Sociology are divided into lectures of around 50 minutes and a class of around 50 minutes. Some are taught as a 2hr seminar, and others via a 50-minute lecture and 2-hr lab. For the majority of modules the lecture-type content will be delivered online – either timetabled as a live online session or available on Moodle in the form of pre-recorded videos. You will be expected to watch this material and engage with any suggested activities before your class each week. Most classes labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming social distancing allows this). In addition to essays, this module will include a range of activities to help you and your teachers to check your understanding and progress. These will include discussions on moodle forum, short exercises based on text, film and interviews, quizzes, a short presentation (autumn) and a book review (spring). The lectures provide an overview of the substantive debates around the topic of the week, while the classes will give you the opportunity to reflect on your learning and actively engage with your peers to develop your understanding further. The weekly classes will take place face-to-face (unless there is a change in the current COVID safety measures). You are strongly encouraged to attend the classes as they provide an opportunity to talk with your class teacher and other students. The classes will be captured and available via Listen Again. However, if you want to gain the most you can from these classes it is very important that you attend and engage. Please note that the recording of classes is at the discretion of the teacher. Please note that you should be spending up to eight hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 32 hours in total for four 30-credit modules).


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay  14/12/2023  100% 
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 120 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Shaul Bar Haim, email:
Dr Shaul Bar Haim
Jane Harper, Undergraduate Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052 E-mail:



External examiner

Dr Emily Gray
University of Warwick
Assistant Professor of Criminology
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 18 (90%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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