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efreysson
03-10-2009, 06:34 PM
A thought occurred to me, in relation to my as-of-yet unpublished fantasy writings: Did people react differently to mayhem and death in times gone by? Back when the average farmer grew up knowing they might one day have to defend the farm from brigands?
One of my main characters is a hardened war veteran, and I wrote him with a persistent case of PTSD. Are there any old records that show the mentality of people in medieval or pre-medieval wars?

Sarpedon
03-10-2009, 06:43 PM
I don't know of any. Given the fact that the first medical notice of PTSD came from World War 1, I doubt if there were any good accounts before then. Most of the accounts I've read focus on the meat of the issue; who won, who lost, who was cloven in twain, and so forth. I doubt any of these accounts would recognize the difference between someone who broke down from combat stress and someone who was simply a coward.

All these books would have been written by the aristocracy, to whom battle was glorious, and who's accounts are colored by that attitude. I don't know of any accounts that were written by the largely illiterate peasantry. Perhaps if you find something written by a monk or other clergyman you might get a different point of view.

RJK
03-10-2009, 11:17 PM
In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt founded the first formal laboratory of Psychology at the University of Leipzig, marking the formal beginning of the study of human emotions, behaviors, and cognitions. Prior to that, Psychology was limited to studies of physically damaged brains, and that didn't begin until the early 19th century.
No one would have recognized PTSD as anything more than strong emotion in medieval or pre-medieval days.

Higgins
03-10-2009, 11:22 PM
A thought occurred to me, in relation to my as-of-yet unpublished fantasy writings: Did people react differently to mayhem and death in times gone by? Back when the average farmer grew up knowing they might one day have to defend the farm from brigands?
One of my main characters is a hardened war veteran, and I wrote him with a persistent case of PTSD. Are there any old records that show the mentality of people in medieval or pre-medieval wars?

PTSD was noted in the aftermath of train wrecks in the 19th century.

From:

http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=d0e824&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e243&brand=ucpress


J.H. Greene, an Iowa railway surgeon, was one of the earliest American physicians to recognize the role of suggestion in fomenting traumatic neuroses. Citing the work of both Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim, Greene proclaimed, "I believe with the modern views on this subject, a greater importance will be attached to this doctrine of hypnotic suggestion in the cure [of traumatic neuroses] and that it will eventually come up in the courts."[122 (http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=nsd0e243&toc.id=endnotes&toc.depth=1&brand=ucpress&anchor.id=d0e829#X)] "This doctrine," Greene added, "reconciles in great part the opposing views of surgeons in these cases and that with the acceptance of the theory of hypnotic suggestion they can meet on common ground, without being regarded one as the tool of the corporation, the other as preparing a case for a prospective fee. It also explains the peculiar efficacy of the 'golden cure,' without throwing the comparatively few people in with the perjurers."[123 (http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=nsd0e243&toc.id=endnotes&toc.depth=1&brand=ucpress&anchor.id=d0e832#X)] In Bernheim's suggestive therapeutics Greene found exactly what he and other railway surgeons had been seeking.[124 (http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=nsd0e243&toc.id=endnotes&toc.depth=1&brand=ucpress&anchor.id=d0e835#X)]
While Greene provided a plausible theoretical rationale that supported the power of suggestion, Warren Bell Outten offered a more practical example. Among the most powerful figures in the NARS, Outten had devoted more than thirty years of his professional life to his duties as chief surgeon for the Missouri Pacific Railway. Over the course of his career Outten observed that railway employees and passengers were not equally susceptible to traumatic neuroses.[125 (http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=nsd0e243&toc.id=endnotes&toc.depth=1&brand=ucpress&anchor.id=d0e839#X)] Outten attributed this difference to two separate, albeit related, factors. Both the employees' "familiarity and experience with dangerous elements" and "the social surroundings of the respective classes" figured prominently in his analysis.[126 (http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=nsd0e243&toc.id=endnotes&toc.depth=1&brand=ucpress&anchor.id=d0e842#X)] In support of this contention he offered the following example.

A man has been in a collision. He was perfectly conscious that he met with no blow; knows, in fact, exactly what occurred to him when the accident happened; and yet he finds that within a few hours, occasionally much sooner, he is seized with a pain in his back, gets worse, and summons a physician. Cause, railway collision! The physician expresses doubt, and suggests grave consequences. Railway injury; nervous patient; suggestion on suggestion continued; and then there is the development of a serious case—psychic influences possibly leading to traumatic hysteria or neurasthenia.[127 (http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft7g5007w4&chunk.id=nsd0e243&toc.id=endnotes&toc.depth=1&brand=ucpress&anchor.id=d0e851#X)]
A sympathetic surrounding composed of friends and loved ones, Outten continued, merely aggravates the patient's condition by fixing his mind

efreysson
03-10-2009, 11:25 PM
No one would have recognized PTSD as anything more than strong emotion in medieval or pre-medieval days.

I didn't mean if people got diagnosed as such. I'm wondering if people were as horrified by violence and mass-slaughter as most of us are today.

Higgins
03-10-2009, 11:37 PM
I didn't mean if people got diagnosed as such. I'm wondering if people were as horrified by violence and mass-slaughter as most of us are today.

they were definitely horrified. Even the horrifying Fulk Nerra went on 3-4 pilgrimages to Jerusalem for his horrific sins:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulk_Nera

And the general consensus at the time was that he was a horrible guy.

Izunya
03-11-2009, 03:44 AM
Even the horrifying Fulk Nerra went on 3-4 pilgrimages to Jerusalem for his horrific sins:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulk_Nera

I think religion was probably the main safety valve in a lot of cultures. People in Europe probably unloaded a lot on their priests during confession, for instance.

Izunya

Ariella
03-11-2009, 04:31 AM
The book Medieval Cruelty (http://books.google.ca/books?id=rNG4QP0GJfAC) by Daniel Baraz is about changing perceptions of cruelty from the later Roman era to the late Middle Ages. The tone is rather academic, but you may find some of the discussion useful.

veinglory
03-11-2009, 06:18 AM
Of course people were horrified. Even in early modern history soldier were horrified, then they were shot as cowards for refusing to return to the front.

Linda Adams
03-11-2009, 02:49 PM
They might have called it different things (possibly even being crazy) and more likely, not even understood why that individual was reacting. PTSD today is the formal term, but it's changed over time. Shell shock was already mentioned, as was battle fatigue. During the Civil War, it was called nostalgia.

And, it could happen to anyone, not just a soldier in a war. In fact, I met a soldier who suffered from a severe case. He'd been medically retired from Vietnam and hung around the post community center. He was like he was in a world of his own--he'd start reliving an old event and acting out loud like he was there. The reactions of other people were to steer clear of him, stare at him, etc. So you could easily work the reactions of other people to your character as well.

dpaterso
03-11-2009, 03:38 PM
Just saying, in WWI and WWII, anyone who requested to be transferred or relieved of duty because of damaging long-term stress (e.g. bomber crew) had their records blotted with "Low Morale Fibre" -- and could be demoted, outcast and/or despised as a result.

Which doesn't answer the OP's question, oops.

-Derek

RJK
03-11-2009, 08:41 PM
You must remember that, in those days, there was no News service. The people of one village could go for months or even years with no knowledge of anything outside their village. They wouldn't know about how wars were progressing, or how a village or town was burned to the ground with all inhabitants slaughtered.
They would learn of the mass-slaughter when it was happening to them.

WriteKnight
03-11-2009, 09:18 PM
PTSD as a human condition has always been around, but the acknowledgement of it, even the RECOGNITION of a psychological condition - certainly wouldn't have been the case in medieval times. (Beyond the obvious 'insane' label, or those associate with the medical 'humors')

Also, the median age for medieval life was 30.... so keep that in mind.

Higgins
03-11-2009, 09:52 PM
You must remember that, in those days, there was no News service. The people of one village could go for months or even years with no knowledge of anything outside their village. They wouldn't know about how wars were progressing, or how a village or town was burned to the ground with all inhabitants slaughtered.
They would learn of the mass-slaughter when it was happening to them.

They might get the news late, but they would have some idea of larger events. Villagers would have to attend courts and even inspections in many cases of the weapons they were legally obligated to maintain. Some villagers would even be trained with some weapons (eg. bills or bows in late medieval England) Some villagers would be marched off to war and a few would return rich from the plunder the took in the "wars" (often thought of as a distant land in folk-sy type perceptions). Coastal towns would know a bit more about war and they might even have some famous local pirating types.

PTSD may have become more common in WWI when barely semi-trained or even very poorly-trained mass armies were locked in combat for years with no opportunity for decent plunder and little sense that one's own actions made much difference.

On the other hand, I have known very well-trained fighter pilots who definitely had some major PTSD symptoms, but they may have gotten them when crashing in bombers during the cold war. I guess getting "thrown clear" of a major bomber crash might give anyone some PTSD.

Buffysquirrel
03-12-2009, 04:18 PM
There is a theory that in the days when soldiers had to march back from wars that they used the time to talk over the fighting they'd been involved in, and to validate that their actions were useful and necessary. Conversely, modern warfare, in which a soldier can go from the front to home in hours, doesn't allow this interaction, and therefore produces more cases of PTSD. So I guess the answer is, "maybe".

RJK
03-12-2009, 07:11 PM
PTSD was recognized as "Soldier's heart" in soldiers fighting in the Civil War. People saw it, had some inkling of what caused it, but had no idea what to do about it.

You should also remember the PTSD is not limited to soldiers. Police officers, firemen, ambulance attendants, and others who deal with stressful situations also encounter PTSD. Even someone involved in an injury auto accident can become of victim of PTSD. It is not an 'On-Off' type disorder. There are degrees of affliction. some can be handled with a strong drink. Others need to have their brain chemistry altered through prescribed drugs.

Summonere
03-13-2009, 01:16 AM
Well, it's not Medieval, but...

Storm of Steel, by Ernst Jünger, is an excellent firsthand account of a WWI veteran's expriences on the ground. At first the shock of human carnage and the appalling variety of destructions that may be wrought upon a body left an impression upon Jünger, but with abundant exposure he found himself benumbed to all manner of death, human wreckage, and the constant drum of artillery that shook the earth and obliterated villages. He wasn't unaffected by these experiences, but he wasn't shell shocked into paralysis, either, as some men were. It seems that his attitude became one of simply accepting the facts of war.

Shadow_Ferret
03-13-2009, 01:25 AM
I didn't mean if people got diagnosed as such. I'm wondering if people were as horrified by violence and mass-slaughter as most of us are today.

I'd think they were AS horrified as we are today. War was just as horrifying then. Swords, arrows, maces, battle axes left some gruesome wounds.

People in battle then were just as affected by what they witnessed as people today are.

My own medieval fantasy has a character who has "flashbacks" to a war he was in.

It's a natural part of the human condition.