Matthew Barrett


This article examines Canadian social and medical responses to nervous breakdown and suicide in the First World War through the case study of Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe, a Member of Parliament and commander of the 116th Battalion. An historical analysis of Sharpe’s experiences and reaction to war trauma provides wider insights into how shell shock and military suicide represented a potential threat to prewar masculine ideals. Medical and political interpretations of Sharpe’s breakdown initially aimed to preserve social stability and validate the war’s moral justifications but contradictory understandings of shell shock ultimately made for a complicated and unstable process of commemoration.