War Studies Seminar: Trauma and resilience among First World War veterans

Event details

SDSC War Studies Seminar

Date & time

Monday 05 August 2019


Theatrette 2.02, Sir Roland Wilson Building (120), McCoy Circuit, ANU


Professor Emerita Joan Beaumont, Strategic & Defence Studies centre, ANU


Mitch Clyne

The memory of war is now dominated by trauma and victimhood. A common assumption is that all Australian veterans who survived in First World War were destined to lead dysfunctional lives, marred by medical problems, troubled interpersonal relations, mental illness, perhaps alcoholism, and premature death. This was indeed the experience of many survivors of, but it is clear that many—perhaps the majority—found the resilience to resume seemingly productive post-war lives. The challenge for historians is understand how these men acquired and sustained the ability to adapt and cope, while others proved far more vulnerable. This lecture will discuss how we assess this resilience, with reference to three returned soldiers—Pompey Elliott, Hugo Throssell and Charles Hawker—two of whom suicided in the Great Depression but one of whom went on to become a prominent federal parliamentarian, his grievous war wounds notwithstanding.

Joan Beaumont is Professor Emerita in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University. Her publications include the jointly edited Serving our Country: Indigenous Australians, War, Defence and Citizenship (2018) and the multiple award-winning Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War (2013). She is currently writing a history of Australians in the aftermath of the First World War and during the Great Depression.

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