Between Flesh and Steel: A History of Military Medicine from the Middle Ages to the War in Afghanistan

Between Flesh and Steel: A History of Military Medicine from the Middle Ages to the War in Afghanistan

Between Flesh and Steel: A History of Military Medicine from the Middle Ages to the War in Afghanistan

Between Flesh and Steel: A History of Military Medicine from the Middle Ages to the War in Afghanistan

Synopsis

Over the last five centuries, the development of modern weapons and warfare has created an entirely new set of challenges for practitioners in the field of military medicine. Between Flesh and Steel traces the historical development of military medicine from the Middle Ages to modern times. Military historian Richard A. Gabriel focuses on three key elements: the modifications in warfare and weapons whose increased killing power radically changed the medical challenges that battle surgeons faced in dealing with casualties, advancements in medical techniques that increased the effectiveness of military medical care, and changes that finally brought about the establishment of military medical care system in modern times. Others topics include the rise of the military surgeon, the invention of anesthesia, and the emergence of such critical disciplines as military psychiatry and bacteriology. The approach is chronological--century by century and war by war, including Iraq and Afghanistan--and cross-cultural in that it examines developments in all of the major armies of the West: British, French, Russian, German, and American. Between Flesh and Steel is the most comprehensive book on the market about the evolution of modern military medicine.

Excerpt

Death came quickly to soldiers wounded on the battlefields of antiquity. the musclepowered weapons that tore at their flesh inflicted death suddenly. Bodies pierced by spears or hacked by swords lingered in agony for only a short time until the loss of blood brought on shock and the merciful unconsciousness that precedes death. the lethality of the ancient soldier’s weapons and the primitive condition of military medical care, where it existed at all, ensured that death could not be protracted. the stricken soldier did not suffer long before slipping away.

With the appearance of gunpowder, wounding took on a more terrible character. Bullets drove fragments of clothing deep into the body, broke the long bones, and caused tracking wounds that, unless extensively incised and cleansed of loose tissue, became seats of infection. Gunpowder-driven projectiles instantly amputated arms and legs, grossly disfigured the face, laid open the skull to expose the brain, and caused multiple penetrations of the intestines. the new weapons caused terrible wounds that stimulated the search for medical techniques to deal with them. But medical innovation was unable to keep pace, and its treatments served mostly to prolong the suffering of the wounded without ultimately preventing their death from shock, blood loss, or infection. the wounded now simply took longer to die. the Middle Ages brought with it the introduction of new medical techniques that held out the promise, mostly unfulfilled, of saving the soldier’s life. But this progress was only a glimpse into the medical future and the beginning of the long road to effective military medical care.

The armies of the Middle Ages were a reflection of the political, social, and economic decentralization of the larger feudal social order. Most wars in this period . . .

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