Containing trauma

Nursing work in the First World War

By Christine Hallett

Containing trauma

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8596-3
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: November 2011
  • BIC Category: History, First World War, c 1910 to c 1919, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / Military / World War I, Nursing, Humanities / First World War
  • Series: Cultural History of Modern War


In this lucid and cogently-argued book, Christine Hallett explores the nature of the practices developed by nurses and their volunteer-assistants during the First World War. She argues that nurses found meaning in their complex and stressful work by identifying it as a process of 'containing trauma'. Broad in its scope and detailed in its research, the book analyses the work of nurses from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America. It draws on highly personal writings: letters and diaries drawn from archives and libraries throughout the world. This wide-ranging book explores a range of treatment scenarios, from the Western and Eastern Fronts to the Eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and India. It considers both the efforts of nurses to provide physical, emotional and moral containment to their patients, and the work they did to maintain their own physical and emotional integrity.


1. Introduction: 'Containing Trauma': First World War nurses' personal writings
2. Containing physical trauma on the Western Front
3. Relief and restoration: rebuilding the physical self
4. Nursing in far-flung places
5. Emotional containment
6. Self-containment
7. Conclusion: First World War nurses as 'containers of trauma'


Christine Hallett is Professor of Nursing History at the University of Manchester, and Director of the UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery.

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