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Browsing by Author "Pöysä, Annika"

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  • Pöysä, Annika (2017)
    This Master's Thesis concerns the British middle-class soldiers' psychological experience as volunteers in Kitchener's army during the Great War. The purpose of this study is to discover how the war affected the soldiers, and why they reacted to it the way they did. It approaches this question by focusing on four aspects of the war from the soldier's perspective, namely: the military organization, his brothers in arms, the act of killing, and the threat of dying. The motivation behind this study was to better understand the experience of these soldiers after they voluntarily joined the world’s first industrial war. Kitchener's army was an army of civilian soldiers, drafted to fill in the ranks of the British army, so that it could properly take part in the war. Through using both relevant historical literature and psychological research as aid, the study uses primary sources in the form of letters and diaries from the trenches to understand and draw conclusions of the experiences personally recounted by the soldiers. The methods with which the study was conducted was through the close-reading of the sources combined with the reading and reviewing of relevant research literature to draw appropriate conclusions. The theoretical framework and subsequent analysis of the sources thus relies heavily on psychological concepts. The concept of masculinity in the contemporary middle-class culture was used to contextualize the soldiers’ experience in their historical timeframe and social niche. Meanwhile, the key psychological terms used in this study in reference to group behavior and stress responses are concepts recognized on the field of psychological research either as defense or coping mechanisms. Where defense mechanisms are commonly understood as unconscious and automatic reactions of the mind to potentially stressful information, coping mechanisms are at least partially consciously driven and maintained by the person themselves to help them refrain from having to face and process the information which they know to be painful. The conclusions of this study imply that the soldier’s social background influenced their war experience both before and after joining the war, giving them a frame of reference for both their set of values and their code of conduct which they drew upon as they adjusted to the life in the trenches. What this study’s results also imply is that while the soldiers had distinctly individual experiences of their own, they were characterized by a set of culturally and psychologically guided features, which hold within themselves a level of predictability. These conclusions suggest that though each experience of soldiers in war is unique, there are broader patterns of behavior within the context of modern warfare, which if understood, could better help predict and understand the behavior of soldiers in comparable circumstances.