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Ben Shephard read History at Oxford University. He was a Producer on the television series The World at War and The Nuclear Age and has made numerous historical and scientific documentaries for the BBC and Channel Four. He is the author of the critically acclaimed A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists 1914-1994 and After Daybreak: The Liberation of Belsen, 1945. He lives in Bristol.
Haunted by memories, the Allies were determined that the end of the Second World War would not be followed by a similar disaster, and they began to lay plans long before victory was assured. Confronted by an entire continent starving and uprooted, Allied planners devised strategies to help all 'displaced persons', and repatriate the fifteen million people who had been deprived of their homes and in many cases forced to work for the Germans. But over a million Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and Yugoslavs refused to go home.
How did the human brain evolve? Why did it evolve as it did? What is man's place in evolution? In the final decades of the nineteenth century, these questions began to occupy scientists. With Darwin's theory of evolution now accepted, modern neuroscience began. Headhunters traces the intellectual journey of four men who met at Cambridge in the 1890s and whose lives interlinked for the next three decades - William Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Myers and William McDougall. It follows their voyages of discovery, taking the reader from anthropological field studies in Melanesia and archaeological excavations in Egypt to the psychiatric wards of the First World War. Their work ranged across fields that today carry a variety of labels - neurology, psychology, psychiatry, zoology - but which for these men formed part of the same enquiry: the search for a science of the mind. A narrative-driven work of intellectual history and a compelling biographical study, Headhunters explores the big ideas about the brain, the nervous system and man's place in history. In the process the book reveals how science actually works - the passions, the irrational flashes, the moments of insight; the big ideas that work - and the big ideas that turn out to be wrong. Acclaimed historian Ben Shephard takes the reader on an extraordinary intellectual journey - and arrives at some very modern destinations.
When British troops entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945, they uncovered scenes of horror and depravity that shocked the world. But they also confronted a terrible challenge - inside the camp were some 60,000 people, suffering from typhus, starvation and dysentery, who would die unless they received immediate medical attention. After Daybreak is the story of the army stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers, medical students and relief workers who attempted to save the inmates of Belsen - with the war still raging and only the most primitive drugs and facilities available. Drawing on their diaries and letters, Ben Shephard reconstructs events at Belsen in the spring of 1945 - from the first horror of its discovery, through the agonising process of trying to save the survivors. In doing so he addresses the question of whether we should regard the relief of the camp as an epic of medical heroism - as the British believed - or see the failure to plan for Belsen and the undoubted mistakes that were made there as further evidence of Allied indifference to the fate of Europe's Jews - as some historians now argue. The result is a powerful and dramatic narrative, full of extraordinary incidents and characters, and an important contribution to medical history.
'I wish you could be here, the Oxford Professor of Medicine wrote to a friend in 1915, in this orgy of neuroses and psychoses and gaits and paralyses. I cannot imagine what has got into the central nervous system of the men.' A War of Nerves is a history of military psychiatry in the twentieth century - an authoritative, accessible account drawing on a vast range of diaries, interviews, medical papers and official records. It reaches back to the moment when the technologies of modern warfare and the disciplines of mental medicine first confronted each other on the Western Front, and traces their uneasy relationship through the eras of 'shell-shock', combat fatigue and 'post-traumatic stress disorder'. At once absorbing historical narrative and intellectual detective story, it tells the full story of 'shell-shock'; explains the disastrous psychological aftermath of Vietnam; and shows how psychiatrists kept men fighting in Burma. But it also tries to answer recurring questions about the effects of war. Why do some men crack and others not? Are the limits of resistance determined by character, heredity, upbringing, ideology or simple biochemistry? It explores the ethical dilemmas of the military psychiatrist - the 'machine gun behind the front', as Freud called him. Finally, it looks at the modern culture of 'trauma' and compensation spawned by the Vietnam War. A War of Nerves offers the general reader an indispensable guide to an important and controversial subject.