University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wolfson College Humanities Society > "Objects, Bodies, and Emotions: How the Gas Mask Can Help Us Tell the History of Total War"

"Objects, Bodies, and Emotions: How the Gas Mask Can Help Us Tell the History of Total War"

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The spring of 1915 ushered in a new era of warfare as the combination of poison gas and air power threatened mass devastation far beyond a narrow front line. It also created a new thing for soldiers to carry—the gas mask—a device designed to protect individuals from this terrifying new weaponry. The gas mask did not remain on the battlefield after that war’s end; by the eve of the next world war, states were lining up their civilians to provide them with these objects, not only to protect their bodies but also to manage their emotions and behaviour. Using Britain and its empire as its central case study, this talk explores how centering an object—the civilian gas mask—may help elucidate our understanding of bodies, emotions, and total war.

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