Academic journal article Nursing History Review

First World War Nursing: New Perspectives

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

First World War Nursing: New Perspectives

Article excerpt

First World War Nursing: New Perspectives Edited by Alison S. Fell and Christine E. Hallett (London: Routledge Studies in Modern History, 2013) (216 pages, $125.00 cloth)

As a scholar in the field of the history of First World War nursing, I appre- ciate the challenge of assembling a collection of essays about the topic that capture the diversity and eclectic nature of the nursing experience during this time. The editors of First World War Nursing: New Perspectives, Alison S. Fell and Christine E. Hallett, have accomplished this by organizing a body of re- search from many of the leading scholars in First World War nursing history. Along with the editors, the contributors to this book span the globe of the Al- lied Forces' contributions, with an appropriately heavy emphasis on the Euro- pean contingent. In the book's prologue, Fell and Hallett justifiably claim that this work is a "fully rounded new study of nurses' unique and compelling per- spectives on the unprecedented experiences" of the First World War. For those new to the subject of First World War nursing, this introduction is a thorough and well-written primer. For more seasoned First World War nursing scholars, it is a thought-provoking reminder of the intricacies of the habitually idealized female nurse amid and superimposed on the war, who vacillates between her role as caregiver and author and as woman and soldier.

For ease of the reader and to create a semblance of order in the vastness of First World War nursing as a topic, the editors conveniently segmented the contents of this book into three parts: "National Identities," "Professional Identities," and "Nurse as Witness." Included in the first part are three essays that discuss how nurses working under the harsh conditions of war are trium- phant over many obstacles that were seemingly universal in nature, regardless of the nationality of the nurse. These works explore the ways in which nurses negotiated their dual roles as patriots and humanitarians, women who were working both for the afflicted from their own nation and all of the war's vic- tims regardless of national affiliation. …

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