Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Booknotes: Psychological Consequences of the American Civil War

New Arrival:
Psychological Consequences of the American Civil War
by R. Gregory Lande (McFarland, 2016).

The study of the Civil War is full of grim subject matter, but the first book to arrive in 2017 is a downer of the less common sort. It isn't just about how what we would diagnose today as PTSD affected returning Civil War soldiers. Lande's book does look at some of the things more commonly considered by scholars, like high rates of "depression, suicide, mental illness, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse" among veterans, but it also examines some of the more unusual coping mechanisms that emerged. Many long-sufferers had justifiably negative views of the state of healthcare at the time and others questioned their faith. "Survivors, leery of conventional medicine and traditional religion, sought out quacks and spiritualists as cult memberships grew." "This book provides a comprehensive account of the war-weary fighting their mental demons." The author's own background is as a psychiatrist, and in the book's preface he also notes that his experiences in forensic psychiatry and addiction medicine informed his research and analysis. Sounds like it might be an interesting study.

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