How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?
An insight into the trial and tribulations of mentally disabled Irish Great War veterans demonstrating the simultaneous prejudice and assistance they experienced.
What book in your field has inspired you the most?
Professor Joanna Bourke’s essay in Ireland and the Great War: A War to Unite Us All? (MUP, 2002) was the first analysis of the Irish experience of shell-shock. Bourke compared the difficult homecoming Irish veterans received in the south to American GI veterans who returned from the Vietnam War. I was really struck by this comparison and was immediately fascinated to find out more about this little-known area of history.
Did your research take you to any unexpected places?
The most surreal moment was visiting the archives of Leopardstown Hospital just outside of Dublin. Still operating today as a medical facility for elderly patients, the hospital was used throughout the inter-war period to care for mentally ill First World War veterans. I’d read so much about the hospital, and I was struck by how similar the main lobby looked to the old black and white photographs.
Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?
Everything on computer (very millennial!)
Why did you choose to publish with MUP?
MUP produces the only Disability History series in the UK. I have most of the series’ titles on my bookshelf, and I felt it was the natural home for my research.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a new three-year project looking at disabled First World War veterans, welfare law and disability policy across the UK, Australia, Canada and South Africa. I’m interested to find out how their respective welfare systems responded to longer-term and more progressive disabilities such as breathing problems, eyesight loss and mental health problems as veterans entered middle and old age.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when starting out on this project, what would it be?
Don’t worry when a deadline goes out the window!
If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?
George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier. One of my personal favourites, and I’d love to have written a book which is timeless.
What other genres do you enjoy reading?
Outside of research related reading, I like autobiographies of former footballers – the more controversy the better!
Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?
Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, Nisha Katona, Marco Pierre White – and I’d tell them to bring a course each.
Shell-shocked British Army veterans in Ireland, 1918-39 is available now and you can read a sample chapter, here.
Michael Robinson is a Leverhulme Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Liverpool.