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Mind, Body And Spirit In The First World War (Module)

Module description

Trench warfare is one of the most distinct, prolonged and damaging combat experiences in the history of warfare. As such the western front in the first world war will forever be remembered as the epitome of futile military slaughter, with its killing on an industrial scale, its stalemated tactics and strategy, and its deep psychological effect on the surviving combatants. All too often however, the 'trench experience' is dismissed without being understood: this course explores the reality of trench life and combat; the reasons why men continued to fight in such circumstances, and the psychological and medical responses to the strain of prolonged trench warfare, so called 'shell shock'. It takes as its source material contemporary letters, diaries and memoirs of combat, post-war literature and history, and scholarly academic assessments of the nature of combat in the first world war.




  • To introduce students to the nature, impact and understanding of combat in the first world war, particularly on the western front
  • To explain the relationship between combat experience, military morale and psychological trauma in the first world war
  • To investigate medical responses to the new phenomenon of 'shell shock'
  • To promote reflexive engagement with the variety of contemporary and secondary sources for studying combat experience in the first world war
  • To promote critical analysis of scholarly writings on the experience and impact of combat in the first world warto develop students' ability to engage in critical analysis, independent judgement and oral and written presentation at a level commensurate with taught postgraduate study




A student who successfully completes this module will:

  • Understand the nature and impact of combat on the western front in the first world warBe able to critically evaluate the factors which affected military morale, discipline and soldier's psychological health in trench warfare
  • Be able to reflect critically on scholarly analysis of the nature, impact and memory of first world war combat, using contemporary and post-war accounts of the experience of combat
  • Demonstrate appropriate scholarly methodology in classwork and assessment

Staff information

Not applicable

Teaching pattern

Not applicable

Module assessment - more information

Not applicable

Key information

Module code 7SSWM136

Credit level 7


Credit value


Study abroad module No