Student Summer Scholars Manuscripts


French, France, World War 1914-1918, shell-shock, trauma, masculinity, gender, emotional, psychological


European History | History | History of Gender | Psychology




Masculinity has been viewed by scholars as a concept which was concerned with becoming as opposed to being. One could not achieve the state of being a man and become complacent. One needed to continuously prove one’s masculinity to oneself, other men, and women.

With its emphasis on the core values of masculinity such as strength, duty and above all, courage, the First World War was seen in France as the ultimate test of manhood. However, confronted with the horrors of modern industrial warfare, men were put into a situation where they were bound to fail that test. This led to a gender crisis in France during the immediate post-war period.

Historians who have studied this crisis have focused on French women’s resistance to reverting to their pre-war positions in the home after filling positions made by men fighting at the front and the threat that this posed to men and the traditional gender roles which they desired. However, I will argue that the post-war gender crisis was not solely caused by women resisting the authority of men, but also by the returning soldiers’ inability to retake their prewar positions of power.

To support my argument I will use a large collection of primary sources such as soldiers’ memoirs/letters, socio-political cartoons, and newspaper and journal articles. I will also use the available secondary sources concerning masculinity studies, shell-shock/emotional trauma, and the general war experience in France.