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World War One (effects on soldiers)

15 Jun 2015

Our Subjects / Ā Mātou Kaupapa:
History, Society and culture

Where can I find information about how World War One affected the soldiers who fought? What impact did the war have on their thinking and behaviour?

LEVEL: Intermediate / Secondary

World War One affected everyone involved in different ways, but some of these effects are more difficult to pin down than others. It is relatively easy to find information online about the conditions that soldiers and others who served endured, but it can be tricky to find out about the long term effects of these. 

NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa and has a couple of interesting pages about wartime conditions for soldiers. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable. 

To find the right area, choose 'New Zealand at war' from the three links under the main introduction. Next, choose 'First World War' from the options. To find a page about conditions at Gallipoli scroll down this page until you see and article called 'The Gallipoli Campaign', the select page 7 'Soldiers' Experience'.

To discover a page about conditions on the Western Front in Belgium go back to the 'First World War' page, scroll down a bit further, choose 'Passchendaele: fighting for Belgium' and then select page 6 Life in the trenches. These pages will help you think about what soldiers went through and how this might have caused long term effects

The British Library's World War One website includes a useful article about how soldiers coped with war. To find it select 'articles' from the options, then choose 'life as a soldier' under themes on the left-hand side. How did soldiers cope with war? appears near the top of the results.

HOT TIP: We like this site because the British Library is one of the world's great libraries, and all their World War One articles are written by experts. You can read about their qualifications at the end of each article. 

Primary sources are a great way to find out about what people are feeling and thinking. Take a look at our ManyAnswers entry about World War One primary sources. This will give you some good ideas about places to look for sources where soldiers may talk about the effects the war had on them.  

One effect of the war was what was known as shell shock. This was a psychological reaction to the horrific nature of war, more commonly known these days as post-traumatic stress disorder. One place to find out about this condition is the BBC History's World War One website. A number of guides to war-related topics can be found by clicking on 'Interactive guides'. Scroll down the page until you can see a link called 'How shell shock shook nations'. 

There is also an older page on Shell shock during World War One on the BBC History website. While is it not being updated anymore, it has been written by an expert and contains good information. 

HOT TIP: A great place to find information on current and historical events from around the world is the BBC's extensive website.

Don't forget that your local or school library will also have books about World War One, which will include the effects it had on soldiers. Look for things that cover social history or autobiographies if you are interested in first-hand accounts. 

Have a look at our Hot Topic about World War One for further suggestions and ideas.

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