War and Trauma in the Modern Age

The details
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 07 October 2021
Friday 01 July 2022
08 October 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA L3C8 Criminology with Social Psychology,
BA L3H8 Criminology with Social Psychology (Including Placement Year),
BA LHC8 Criminology with Social Psychology (Including Year Abroad),
BA CL83 Sociology with Social Psychology,
BA CL93 Sociology with Social Psychology (Including Placement Year),
BA CLV3 Sociology with Social Psychology (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

What is 'trauma' and how is its history connected to war? This module traces the rise of trauma from the two World Wars of the twentieth century, through the Vietnam war and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts to the present.

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


• knowledge of global conflicts across the 20th Century and their psychological impact on participants and later generations
• 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’
• 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 click on the link below to view the Introduction video to SC387 War and Trauma in the Modern Age

Learning and teaching methods

As there are still restrictions related to COVID-19 in place, some of the teaching on most modules will take place online. 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, SC387 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).


  • Robert De Board. (2014) 'Groups and their basic assumptions—the in?uence of Wilfred Bion', in The psychoanalysis of organizations: a psychoanalytic approach to behaviour in groups and organizations, New York: Routledge., pp.35-48
  • Cimino, Michael; De Niro, Robert. (c2002) The deer hunter, [London?]: Warner Bros Home Video.
  • Fonda, Jane; Hellman, Jerome; Ashby, Hal. (2004) Coming home, [U.K.]: MGM Home Entertainment.
  • Freud, Sigmund; Bell, Anthea; Robertson, Ritchie. (2013) A case of hysteria: (Dora), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Shephard, Ben. (2000) A war of nerves, London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Lawrence, Jon. (2003) 'Forging a Peaceable Kingdom: War, Violence, and Fear of Brutalization in Post–First World War Britain', in The Journal of Modern History. vol. 75 (3) , pp.557-589
  • Herzog, Dagmar. (©2014) 'The Obscenity of Objectivity: Post-Holocaust Anti-Semitism and the Invention-Discovery of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder', in Catastrophes: a history and theory of an operative concept, Oldenbourg: De Gruyter., pp.128-155
  • Marianne Hirsch. (2012) The generation of postmemory: writing and visual culture after the Holocaust, New York: Columbia University Press. vol. Gender and culture
  • Grinker, Roy R.; Spiegel, John P. (©1979) Men under stress, New York: Irvington Publishers.
  • Elaine Showalter. (1997) 'Gulf War Syndrome', in Hystories: hysterical epidemics and modern culture, London: Picador., pp.133-143
  • Gaylyn Studlar and David Desser. (1988) 'Never Having to Say You're Sorry: Rambo's Rewriting of the Vietnam War', in Film Quarterly. vol. 42, pp.9-16
  • Bion, Wilfred R.; Bion, Francesca. (1997) War memoirs, 1917-1919, London: Karnac Books.
  • Gerwarth, Robert. (2016) The vanquished: why the First World War failed to end, 1917-1923, London: Allen Lane.
  • Heard, Barry. (2007) Well done, those men: memoirs of a Vietnam veteran, Melbourne: Scribe Publications.
  • Kubrick, Stanley; Modine, Matthew; Baldwin, Adam. (2001) Full metal jacket, [London?]: Warner Home Video. vol. Stanley Kubrick collection
  • Bion and experiences in groups,
  • Coppola, Francis Ford; Sheen, Martin; Brando, Marlon; Duvall, Robert. (1999, c1979) Apocalypse now, [Hollywood, Calif.?]: Paramount.
  • Miriam Reisman. (2016) 'PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What's Working, What's New, and What's Next', in P&T: A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Managed Care & Formulary Management: MediMedia USA. vol. 41 (10) , pp.623-634
  • Lanzmann, Claude. (c2007) Shoah, [S.l.]: Eureka.
  • Shephard, Ben. (2002) A war of nerves: soldiers and psychiatrists, 1914-1994, London: Pimlico.
  • Wellum, Geoffrey. (2009) First light, London: Michael Joseph.
  • Amy Bell. (2009) 'Landscapes of Fear: Wartime London, 1939-1945', in Journal of British Studies: Cambridge University Press. vol. 48 (1) , pp.153-175
  • Kent, Susan. (2009) Aftershocks: politics and trauma in Britain, 1918-1931, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Laub, Dori. (1991) 'Truth and Testimony: The Process and the Struggle', in American Imago: The Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. 48 (1) , pp.75-91
  • Summerfield, D. (2001) 'The invention of post-traumatic stress disorder and the social usefulness of a psychiatric category', in BMJ. vol. 322 (7278) , pp.95-98
  • Michal, Givoni. (2011) 'Witnessing/Testimony', in Mafte'akh : lexical review of political thought: Tel Aviv University. vol. 2e, pp.147-170
  • Bion, Wilfred R. (1943) 'Intra-Group Tensions in Therapy: Their Study as the Task of the Group', in The Lancet. vol. 242 (6274) , pp.678-682
  • Dodd, Lindsey. (2013) ''It did not traumatise me at all': childhood 'trauma' in French oral narratives of wartime bombing', in Oral History: Oral History Society. vol. 41 (2) , pp.37-48
  • Bar-On, Dan. (1995) Fear and hope: three generations of the Holocaust, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Freud, Sigmund; Reddick, John; Edmundson, Mark. (2003) Beyond the pleasure principle and other writings, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin classics
  • W. H. R. Rivers. (1920) 'The Repression of War Experience', in Instinct and the unconscious: a contribution to a biological theory of the psycho-neuroses, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. The Cambridge medical series, pp.185-204
  • Garland, Caroline. (1998) Understanding trauma: a psychoanalytical approach, London: Duckworth.
  • Fassin, Didier; Rechtman, Richard. (c2009) The empire of trauma: an inquiry into the condition of victimhood, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Horwitz, Allan V. (©2018) PTSD: a short history, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Elizabeth Jelin; Susana G. Kaufmann. (2000) 'Layers of Memories: twenty years after in Argentina', in The politics of war memory and commemoration, London: Routledge. vol. Routledge studies in memory and narrative, pp.89-110
  • Durodié, Bill. (2006) 'Risk and the Social Construction of 'Gulf War Syndrome', in Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences: Royal Society. vol. 361 (1468) , pp.689-695

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 Weighting
Coursework   Presentation write up  18/11/2021  20% 
Coursework   Essay 1  16/12/2021  30% 
Coursework   Film Commentary   18/02/2022  20% 
Coursework   Essay 2   25/03/2022  30% 
Exam  1440 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


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



External examiner

Dr Jennifer Fleetwood
Goldsmiths, University of London
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 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

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