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War and medicine

Medicine and war - medical improvements

Educational objective

An understanding of how warfare has often had a dramatic effect on the development of medical treatment.

Classroom activity - ‘which war?’ snap

Ask students to use the Brought to Life website to research the development of drug treatments and surgical techniques that emerged during or very close to wartime. Having done this they should then create a set of snap cards based on their findings. One set should have different wars on its cards and should match a set with the related medical techniques.

The object of the game is to win rounds by matching a drug treatment or surgical technique to a particular war.

Extension activity

Once the game has been played, use the set to create a timeline to show the progression and put it up in the classroom.

Curriculum links

  • The impact of the two world wars on surgery
  • The impact of developments on medical treatment
  • The influence of science and technology on medicine
  • Modern surgeries, transplanting organs and plastic surgery
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    Medicine and war - ‘war syndrome’

    Educational objective

    Students will gain an appreciation of how attitudes towards people with mental health needs changed through history, in particular within the medical profession.




    Classroom activity - diary of a shell shock victim

    Ask your students to use the Brought to Life website to research ‘war syndrome’ and related areas, such as shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Based on this information, ask your students to write a poem, in the style of war poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon (a poem can be found by clicking on this link), describing the horror of life in the trenches during the First World War.

    Alternatively, students could write an imaginary first letter home from a young soldier to his parents describing his feelings and fears as he attempts to adjust to life in the trenches. Unbearable stress and disease were just as much an enemy as the soldiers of the opposing army.

    Extension activity

    Students could create a week’s worth of diary entries written from the perspective of a 16-year-old soldier who, trapped in a First World War battlefield trench, has been under shell fire for longer than he can remember.

    Curriculum links

  • The impact of war on the development of medical treatment
  • Changing local and national government involvement in public health
  • Reasons for changes in provision - the influence of war