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A hierarchy of health: veteran identities and the marginalisation of mental disorder in Scotland, 1914-1934.

Glasgow Caledonian University


Jennifer Farquharson is a final year PhD candidate at Glasgow Caledonian University. Her research centres on the inpatient experiences and marginalised history of civilians and ex-servicemen in civilian asylums in First World War Scotland. She is currently completing an internship with Historic Environment Scotland in Technical Education and Outreach.


During the First World War, a hierarchy of servicemen was established in Britain through military, social and medical responses to healthcare. By rebranding public asylums as war hospitals this hierarchy and its limitations were exposed quite clearly. Politicians, the British Red Cross Society, local communities and lunacy authorities were but a few amongst nationwide networks endeavouring to isolate the physically or psychologically injured serviceman as a cut above their civilian counterparts. This paper will explore the experiences of servicemen at the bottom of this hierarchy, or those in civilian asylums. The process of removing men from the front, preparing asylums as war hospitals and maintain military and civilian institutions were all indicative of military, psychiatric and charitable responses towards mental deterioration amongst servicemen and the impact such responses had on the healthcare they received.

This paper will also discuss how ex-servicemen themselves viewed this hierarchy by exploring veteran identities. Through case studies, this paper will compare perceptions of the civil asylum – free from military authority – as both a site of protection and recovery in terms of social and gender roles, and as a site of humility, depriving men of the distinction of military care. It is the aim of this paper to reveal a marginalised body of ex-servicemen inside civil asylums in Scotland, 1914-1934."