With US soldiers stationed around the world and engaged in multiple conflicts, Americans will be forced for the foreseeable future to come to terms with those permanently disabled in battle. At the moment, we accept rehabilitation as the proper social and cultural response to the wounded, swiftly returning injured combatants to their civilian lives. But this was not always the case, as Beth Linker reveals in her provocative new book, War's Waste. Linker explains how, before entering World War I, the United States sought a way to avoid the enormous cost of providing injured soldiers with pensions, which it had done since the Revolutionary War. Emboldened by their faith in the new social and medical sciences, reformers pushed rehabilitation as a means to "rebuild" disabled soldiers, relieving the nation of a monetary burden and easing the decision to enter the Great War. Linker's narrative moves from the professional development of orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists to the curative workshops, or hospital spaces where disabled soldiers learned how to repair automobiles as well as their own artificial limbs. The story culminates in the postwar establishment of the Veterans Administration, one of the greatest legacies to come out of the First World War.
About the Author
Beth Linker is associate professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Carefully researched and compellingly argued, this is an important contribution to our understanding of the complicated relationships among public policy, orthopedic and rehabilitative medicine, and social values. Its relevance to today’s challenging realities makes Linker’s penetrating study of an earlier war relevant to a wide spectrum of potential readers.”—Charles E. Rosenberg, Harvard University
-Charles E. Rosenberg, Harvard University
“War’s Waste is far more than a work of medical history. It is also an important contribution to the political and social history of the United States. Linker’s account combines larger political and cultural issues with a careful description and analysis of day-to-day medical practices.”—Thomas Schlich, author of The Origins of Organ Transplantation Surgery and Laboratory Science, 1880–1930
“This thoughtful, provocative, deeply researched and beautifully written study shows how the US government took responsibility for soldiers who were physically injured and maimed in World War I, and why there was support for government intervention. Linker’s answer, superbly dissected and presented, is that there was a brew of intersecting motives: from American ideals of masculinity, modernity, and militarism to work and self-reliance.”—Rosemary A. Stevens, Weill Cornell Medical College
-Rosemary A. Stevens, Weill Cornell Medical College
“War’s Waste connects the history of medicine to the historical experience of disability. Beth Linker shows that World War I doctors developed new rehabilitation technologies they hoped would cure disability in response to the vast human and economic costs of the war’s new technologies of mass carnage. But soldiers with disabilities also played a key role in this medicalization. They rejected claims that rehabilitation produced quick cures, and they demanded additional medical and nursing treatment. Linker’s sensitive and moving examples bring to life the economic, gender, and race conflicts that shaped the first generation to experience twentieth-century rehabilitation.”—Martin S. Pernick, University of Michigan
-Martin S. Pernick, University of Michigan
“Wounded and dismembered soldiers have always excited anxieties among citizens, as well as governmental officials. Beth Linker’s history of the rehabilitation of American men wounded during World War I focuses on the politics of rehabilitation. Reconstructing men’s sense of their own manliness turns out to be as important as ensuring that they remain useful as workers and patriots. War’s Waste is a persuasive and eloquent account of personal and political struggles in the aftermath of war. A must-read for anyone curious about what happens when mutilated soldiers return home.”—Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck, University of London
-Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck, University of London
“War’s Waste describes the transformation of America’s veterans’ policy from pensions to rehabilitation. Beth Linker convincingly argues that the rise of orthopedics, physiotherapy, prosthetics, and the modern army hospital during World War I were all part of an ideological and policy backlash against the Civil War veterans pension system, and aimed to turn wounded soldiers into productive members of the labor force. Combining sophisticated analysis with highly readable prose, War’s Waste will appeal to historians and scholars of medicine, policy, disability, the body, gender studies, and World War I and military history.”—Beatrix Hoffman, Northern Illinois University
-Beatrix Hoffman, Northern Illinois University