Much has been written about the First World War in the making of the modern world — of the paradox of that awesome dance of death giving birth to modernist vision.1 But the significance of 1914–18 for modern medicine and its image has been little explored. Instead, on the basis of an abundant medical literature, it has largely been accepted that, for all its horrors, the ‘Great War’ was not only great for medicine, but was good for humanity in general, encouraging medical innovations, stimulating new therapies, drugs, surgical techniques, and so on.2 This chapter is not concerned with challenging this overtly positivist, implicitly militarist, and profoundly simplistic message so much as with pointing to its irrelevance in interpreting one of the assumed-to-be most significant and enduring of the medical benefits of the war: specialization.3 Through the wartime history of orthopaedics, we shall show, the perception of specialization as a straightforward beneficiary of war — comparable, say, to the munitions industry — is at best superficial, at worst wrong.


Club Foot Military Hospital American Orthopaedist Base Hospital Military Medicine 
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Copyright information

© Roger Cooter 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Cooter
    • 1
  1. 1.Wellcome Unit for the History of MedicineUniversity of ManchesterUK

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