Although physicians during World War I, and scholars since, have addressed the idea of disorders such as shell shock as inchoate flights into sickness by men unwilling to cope with war's privations, they have given little attention to the agency many soldiers actually possessed to express dissent in a system that medicalized it.
In Germany, these men were called "war tremblers," for their telltale symptom of uncontrollable shaking. Based on archival research that constitutes the largest study of psychiatric patient files from 1914 to 1918, Rebecca Ayako Bennette examines the important space that wartime psychiatry provided soldiers expressing objection to the war in Diagnosing Dissent: Hysterics, Deserters, and Conscientious Objectors in Germany during World War One (Cornell University Press, 2020).
Michael E. O’Sullivan is Professor of History at Marist College where he teaches courses about Modern Europe. He published Disruptive Power: Catholic Women, Miracles, and Politics in Modern Germany, 1918-1965 with University of Toronto Press in 2018. It was recently awarded the Waterloo Centre for German Studies Book Prize for 2018.